“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” Andy Williams sings… and yet statistics tell us that…
1 in 4 parents (28%) feel they have unrealistic expectations of themselves (at Christmas). Overall, 20% of parents acknowledge that their own stress level negatively affects their child’s enjoyment of the holidays. *
It’s Christmas! Are you ready? Perhaps this blog should start… “A letter to myself…” If you were to write yourself a letter to help you enjoy this Christmas and not only survive, what would it include?
Whilst we recognise that families come in all shapes – blended ones, single ones, extended ones… the pressures are often similar for all and they often come down to expectations. Most of these expectations are the ones that we as parents set. It is likely that you’ve not yet heard a child crying that there were no Brussel sprouts with dinner or exclaiming how disappointed they were that the trifle wasn’t home-made this year. So, before Christmas is fully upon us in all it’s force, is there time to pause and take stock and ask yourself what really matters?
What is the one thing that makes Christmas for you? Do you focus on ensuring you have seven different vegetables and Jamie Oliver’s homemade (start making it a week in advance) gravy – when the thing that you enjoy the most is sitting down with family and laughing at the silly cracker jokes? Do you spend more time in the kitchen than at the table and miss the part of Christmas that means the most to you?
In this moment of pause, consider asking yourself, your children, your loved ones (and not so loved ones if they are also joining you over the festive period) what traditions and trimmings are most important to them. Which can you include and which can you let go of?
What small changes would you like to make to reduce the many elements which are filling your stress/busy bucket to allow you to have a Christmas full of good cheer, rather than full of tears.
- Maybe the Elf needs a dose of flu and a few nights resting (so you can go to bed without worrying if you’ve moved the Elf)?
- Perhaps the children can wrap some presents this year, even if it means you use three extra rolls of Sellotape, and the presents aren’t quite as co-ordinated under the tree this year?
- Or you don’t make mince pies this year, as no-one seems to eat them anyway (except Santa and he likes the cheap ones from Asda)?
Sometimes our efforts to create the perfect Christmas is actually the cause of extra stress and an unwanted dose of cortisol.
The foundations for a good Christmas are no different to the other days of the year but they can so often be overlooked by us and our children.
The best gift this Christmas isn’t the presents but it’s the 3Ps!
Positive Interactions, Positive Action and Positive Thoughts.
When we develop the 3Ps as the foundations of our days, we are ensuring that we have a healthy dose of the wonderful feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps us to feel happier and calmer and counteracts the effects of the stress hormone, cortisol.
Plan in some 3Ps for Christmas to help you and your children feel happier, calmer and more in control
POSITIVE ACTION – Have Fun!
Something we like to use in our Fairy sessions with children is to create a positive action list – fun activities to enjoy as a family. This isn’t a shopping list or your to-do list! You can create this one as a family. To make this more fun you can number the list and use a random number generator app to select an activity from the list.
Our Fairy Rules include it can’t be expensive (no ROBLOX!), you may also want to add a rule of no screens (as screen time can become more of a challenge over the holiday period).
Your list might include:
- Creating a hot chocolate station
- Having a family sleepover (mattresses in the lounge)
- Going for a walk
- Playing a family game
- A mini-Christmas bake off (or just decorating pre-made cupcakes)
- Watching a Christmas movie or even a Christmas movie marathon (within the boundaries of screentime)!
When we have fun together, we are also having positive interactions (another one of the 3Ps) and these both help to increase our serotonin levels which is one of the feel-good neurotransmitters – which in turn will help us feel calmer and more in control and better equipped to cope better with the extra demands of Christmas.
Zzzzzz – SLEEP
Christmas messes with our sleep – whether you’re 9 or 90, our usual routine is interrupted. We’re excited, have more to do, eat more sugar and are generally out of routine and this negatively affects our sleep. Good sleep improves our mood and our ability to cope with stress. Good sleep actually empties our stress bucket – while we sleep (during dream/REM sleep) we process the worries, stress and anxieties of our day, and generally wake up feeling happier and calmer.
Our children may take some convincing to go to bed on time, especially with all the excitement so planning in wind down/relaxation time can be really beneficial.
Some relaxing activities before bed might include:
- Christmas Crafts – colouring, sewing, or Lego can all help to encourage relaxing down time.
- Reading – encouraging reading at bedtime, perhaps of a new Christmas book.
- Christmas Movie – snuggling on the sofa to watch a favourite film can be relaxing, especially if it is something that they’ve watched before so it is less stimulating and exciting.
- Do try to limit tech time at bedtime – WHO recommend less than 2 hours of screen time a day. Although this can be difficult during the Christmas holidays, turning tech off at least an hour before bedtime can help to improve the quality of sleep. It can be helpful to set this boundary and expectation in advance as having this battle at bedtime can be unhelpful.
- Remember, if you have worked with one of our Youth Fairies, you have a wonderful relaxation you can utilise at bedtime and don’t forget to end your day focussing on the “What’s been goods” – helping you to end your day with another of the 3Ps – Positive Thoughts.
A Christmas Bonus
Why not create a Positive Action list for yourself and once the children have gone to bed (or at least gone to their bedrooms) you can select an activity from your list to support you in feeling happier, calmer and more in control – happy parent, happy kids! Your list might be a bit different but the results will be the same. It might include items such as cheese and biscuits, a bubble bath, an early night, a good book – or a marathon of your current favourite tv series!
So, one final note to leave you with in the words of Charlie Brown…
“It’s not what’s under the Christmas tree that matters, it’s who’s around it.”