If you are celebrating with the wider family this year, here are 9 tips for the big day with small children:
1) Less is more
Over the years I have simplified our family Christmas to be more in line with what I can manage with ease. It has become much more enjoyable for everyone because of this. Perhaps there is something causing you unnecessary stress that you would like to do differently this year. Remember your presence is the greatest gift to your children.
2) Differing ideas of child rearing
If family members have expectations of your children that you do not find appropriate, it can be helpful to remember that they are usually trying to express their love for your child and their wish to include them in the family tribe. Remember that it is what you do everyday at home that has by far the most impact.
3) “A kiss for Auntie Jane”
To make the day less stressful for children, it is helpful to allow them the choice whether to embrace and kiss family members – or not. Some of us have uncomfortable memories of having to kiss relatives – and it is respectful to be sensitive to children’s wishes in this. If a relative requires a kiss and you sense your child’s reluctance, a nice remark like, “I’d love to give you an extra kiss for him,” can help to lighten a potentially awkward moment.
4) Saying “Thank you!”
Similarly, relatives may expect thank-yous! With toddlers I always advise just saying it for them, to ease the pressure. With slightly older children a little prompt in their ear or a conversation beforehand can help solve your worries about how your children will be perceived. The main support to them in this area is expressing genuine gratitude ourselves. They will learn from us in time.
5) “Look at that!”
Trust your children to take Christmas in their own way. They may not get excited about the things you remember enjoying as a child. Their attention may be caught by something quite different. Try to resist the temptation to point things out to them. Pointing things out to them suggests that whatever they are engaging with is less significant than what we have to show them. If we trust them to notice what is important to them, they will learn trust in themselves. Trust them to discover the magic in their own way and in their own time.
6) “Can I hold the baby?”
Families love their youngest members and it is truly a blessing to have a baby in the family at Christmas. Babies are very sensitive, however, and people’s hands, smell, voice and bodily presence make strong sensory impressions on them. So please be aware that being “passed around” makes huge demands on your baby’s tolerance limits. It’s best to allow your baby to be in his or her favourite resting place, probably with you, while the family celebrates around.
7) How to avoid tantrums
All these tips will support children to be able to cope with Christmas day without tantrums. Bearing the following in mind will also help: Small children need space and time to follow their own needs for play, food and rest. Have a little think beforehand about how your children will have these needs met in a sequence that suits them. This is not selfish – it is simply a requirement for little children. This way they can be at their best.
8) Opening presents
Children have different ways of approaching Christmas presents. Some get very absorbed in the first thing they open and don’t take much interest in the rest. Others indulge in a mad frenzy of opening. Try and think through what kind of experience you would like your own particular children to have, given their personal tendencies. You may want to set some limits and, if they are old enough, you can discuss things with them beforehand. Giving them easy-to-understand reasons can help them follow the plan.
9) If things get too much
If you sense your child has had enough of the festivities, you can help them recharge by offering them a little one-to-one time with you, away from everything. A quiet nappy change in another room or a runaround outside can help them restore their connection with you and feel rebalanced.
Wishing you a joyful and peaceful time with your family over Christmas. May you experience all the love that you share as a tangible reality.
With love from my family home to yours,
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