Christmas day can be exhausting and stressful when you’re single and thought you had little more to worry about than how many bottles of champagne you’d need to supply your boozy relatives, and how to fake a smile when you’re given the same book you’ve already read by the fourth well-meaning aunt. But, when you have small children in tow it can all suddenly seem very overwhelming, threatening to take the shine off the whole day.
Relax! Christmas is meant to be fun remember? 🙂 So here are some of top tips for keeping the fun a priority and the tension at bay.
Safeguard the Christmas tree
I’ve heard and seen suggestions about avoiding trees altogether or putting a small one up out of reach on a table, but if you want the big traditional tree surrounded by presents you don’t have forgo it, even with small children who pull and climb and destroy. It’s a small investment but one I think is worth it; a wooden playpen. Most these days are a series of sections designed to create the shape that suits you, so you can arrange it around you tree or cordon off a section of a room. It’s great after Christmas as well as a safe place for young children to play when you have a shower, or cook, or climb onto the roof, or whatever you need to do where you can’t watch the kids.
Give your children plenty of notice – Xmas is coming!
This serves the double purpose of building excitement (which is worth the crazy that comes with it, surely? We want them to be excited about Christmas, right?!) and making sure they aren’t taken unawares when there are big changes to their routine. Children thrive on routines and predictability in their lives so when there will be a lot of people and changes to their day, talk about it often in the lead up to Christmas. Talk about what will happen, who they’ll spend the day with, and what your expectations of them are (don’t have too many expectations!).
Give yourself and your children a chance to rest before the big day. Easier said than done I know, but if you usually go to baby and toddler classes, the park, the shops, cafes, to see friends, etc etc etc, cross them off your to-do list wherever possible in the few days before Christmas. For one thing you’ll probably realise you have more to do at home than you thought (I always have that last minute moment where it occurs to me I allowed 20 minutes for something that clearly takes four and half hours), but mainly it’s just a chance to be quiet before the hubbub of Christmas. Be your calmest self and encourage your children to have a good back log of rest and sleep to draw on when they inevitably become over-stimulated and-overtired on the big day.
Delegate. Delegate. Delegate.
I hate to let others do things I’m pretty sure I can do better. I really struggle to let anyone help me. Ever. But it really is the mark of good manager, at the office or at home, to be able to apportion jobs out to others, willing or not (!), to ensure the whole day runs smoothly. Even if you’re Supermanning and Domestic Goddessing all over the place, you can get adults and older children to do a dozen small jobs that will free you up, and children of about 3 years to 8 years often enjoy being given responsibility (younger than this they’re not really up to it and any older and they’ve cottoned on to the fact you’re making them work and calling it fun, Tom Sawyer style). If you’re less busy you can deal with small mishaps and will be less stressed if called upon to deal with big mishaps.
Let them eat cake
… and biscuits and chocolate and lollies and pies and turkey and stuffing and bread and the piece of fluff they found under the couch and ice cream and sausages and whatever they want. There is absolutely no way on earth that a single day of over-the-top unhealthy eating could do lasting damage, not realistically. Even if you usually prefer your children to be pagans of virtue in their eating habits, and even if you succeed (a much trickier prospect), just turn a blind eye today.
Giving ground here means you don’t need to watch what they’re eating, since they can eat anything they want, giving you more time to deal with other things. Christmas is meant to be extravagant; we all eat and drink and buy too much, why should children be left out? It’s a day to look forward to all year and being a day of eating free-for-all can help you set limits the rest of the time (of course you can’t eat that, what do you think this is, Christmas?!!! 😉 ) You might be surprised to find that when given free licence they don’t eat as much or as poorly as you’d expect and even if they try, they couldn’t possibly outweigh the good eating you share the rest of the year.
This is the most important of all. Prepare yourself and the children, rest up beforehand, be clear about expectations and avoid unnecessary conflict, loosen the reins a little (get it, reins, like for the reindeer??? ahhhh….lol ), but if (when?) it all goes to hell in a handbasket, try try try to go with the flow. I believe routine is the key to happy children, but the routine is already out the window so don’t stress if you can’t get a baby’s nap in when you think you should, or didn’t feed the kids when they’d usually eat, or forgot to plan for the extra children that arrive with those aunts who keep giving you books you read last year. Naps can be moved, skipped, or happen in someone’s lap, children can share a bed, meals can be anytime (the kids are stuffing themselves on chocolate and couch fluff remember?), and TV can be a blessed babysitter.
This is a day for fun, family, friends, loved ones sharing a special day and creating memories. It’s a big day that throws the usual schedule in chaos and you should be realistic about the impact on small children. They will probably swing wildly between excited and happy, and grumpy and sleepy. Make it as easy on them and yourself and everyone as possible and take the easy route where possible feeling utterly GUILT free! This is a free day, it has nothing to do with normal routines and plans and goals and expectations. Your only goal today is to enjoy yourself and your family, and for them to feel the same way.