Christmas is coming! Dealing with the busiest time of the year

Santa baby - Baby's first Christmas
Christmas has never looked so cute

December 2018 is finally upon us. Towns are lit up with glorious lights, Christmas trees around the country are being decorated and baubles are being moved around by mischievous little hands. While this may be the most wonderful time of the year for some, it can also be the most stressful. I’m going to give you some hints and tips to help you cope with the end of year mayhem.

Our children can’t contain their excitement for the arrival of Father Christmas, and while this brings joy to parents, it also brings a lot of stress. Buying presents not only for our close family, but distant relatives that we don’t really car about, but always exchange gifts with, is a laborious task. Then there are the dad and husbands, who can only have so many pairs of socks or bottles of posh whiskey. On top of that, you have to organise the whole family and their schedules; know who’s bringing what to the Christmas eve party, meticulously plan how you’re going to get everyone from a dance show to the village carol singing (insert your family’s activities here) rehearse scenes and songs for the end of term Christmas show, not to mention making the dreaded costumes for said show (the Nativity lobster in Love Actually comes to mind).

Prioritise

You have one hundred events coming up in the lead-up to Christmas, and you still haven’t finished your Christmas shopping. You’re on the verge of a meltdown. What should you do?

You need to prioritse the things that are most important, which is most easily done by making a list.I rely on lists to get me through the week, particularly at this time of year. Write down everything you have to do even the tiny mundane tasks, because you might end up forgetting them among all the bigger, arduous tasks. Once everything is noted, prioiritse them. This can be done by time constraints (do the most urgent things first) and also by the most important (if you haven’t bought food for Christmas day, it can’t wait until the last minute, yo’ll find a turkey somewhere.) Smaller tasks which are second nature to most parents, like washing clothes and making school lunches, might be more easily left until the last minute at this time of year. You can put off doing the laundry for days, but when your child asks where their reindeer jumper is on their school’s Christmas jumper day you’ll end up pulling clothes out of the wash bin and wiping stains off them at 8am before the school run and your day has already got off to a bad start. 

Try to do these small tasks in the evening. When the kids are in bed, either wash some clothes or set the machine to start at another time. Prepare lunch boxes, do online shopping in front of the TV with a glass of wine or hot drink. Try to get things done when you’re calm and that way you can work through more tasks than if you’re cramming them in to an already busy day. 

Say NO

A huge part of prioritising is learning to say no. If ou already have 3 Xmas-related events and a dentist appointment one week, say no to any other proposition. If someone invites you to something and it makes you feel more anxiety than joy, just say no. It’s a manic time of year for a lot of people, and Christmas is also family time, so if you don’t want to see the Christmas lights be turned on in the village, that’s fine.

The hardest people to say ‘no’ to at this time of year of our children. Children beg s to do the things that their friends have done with their families, the Christmas pantomime, a winter wonderland adventure or making gingerbread houses from scratch. Dont feel the pressure to o everything that everyone is doing, no matter how much your kids ask. Tell them your’e doing your own traditions, and we’ll come to that later. Whether it’s their first Christmas or they’re back from university, we want to please our children and show them how much we love them. But remember, there are only so many hours in a day, and we have to think about ourselves as well.

De-stress

It’s the twelfth month of the year, and you feel like you have more things to do now than you did in the 11 other months put together. You feel like you might explode, and everyone else seems to calm and collected. I like to think that we’re all so bloody cold outside that you can’t see the worry and stress that’s writhing through our bones. You need to stop every now and again to take some time out, or “me time” if you like. This could be half an hour reading before bed, watching a series, cuddling with your partner (just the two of you!) or exercising. This is not the right time to start up a new relaxation technique. If you’ve never done yoga or meditation, and haven’t tried these new relaxing colouring books that claim to de-stress, then dont try them now. Adding to your list of things to do is a bad idea, wait until the new year when things calm down. For now, you just need to wind down in the way you always have done. Reading, taking a long hot bath, going for a run or catching up on reality TV are all example of ways to de-connect from our busy lives and wind down. Stop putting everyone else first just for half an hour, and remember the importance of your own mental health.

Family Traditions

There is no better time to start a family tradition than Christmas. I know I told you not to add more tasks to your never-ending ‘to do’ list, but traditions don’t have to be hard work. You will create memories with your family that you will never forget. If this is your baby’s first Christmas, I believe you should start as you mean to go on, and start your family traditions this year. That way you can reminisce in years to come. Here are some example of my favourite Christmas traditions for you and your family, I know that Christmas can cost a fortune so I’ve really focused on free or cheap activities that your whole family can enjoy:

If you’ve lost a loved one then Christmas can bring sadness as they aren’t there to celebrate with you. You can honour them by doing things they used to enjoy, like buying their favourite food or drink, decorating a bauble for them or hanging a small photo of them or something of theirs  on your Christmas tree.

For young children, crafts are a great way to get everyone into the Christmas spirit. It could be as elaborate as making baubles or snowflakes and building cardboard Christmas trees covered in glitter or something as simple as drawing Santa Claus or a winter wonderland scene. I still have all of the baubles that I made at school as a child, which go on the tree at my parents’ house every year. Helpful hint: write your child’s name and the year on every bauble so that they remember in years to come. 

Staying in the creative theme, making a particular cake or biscuit every year could be a fun family activity that you can all either keep to yourselves or enjoy at a family get together. Ideas include mince pies, gingerbread men, shortbread Christmas trees or any other kind of biscuit made with Christmas themed biscuit cutters! 

Next up is Christmas movie night. This can be the perfect tradition for many families; it’s free, relaxing and loved by everyone. Kids are excited to watch a film, parents can cosy up on the sofa and enjoy some down-time with their usually-energetic children and it’s the perfect way to get into the joyful Christmas mood and bring some festive spirit into your household. Make this family night-in even better with hot chocolate and marshmallows!

Visiting a Christmas market. You can kill two birds with one stone and buy last minute Christmas presents or stocking-fillers, or you can have a free evening out with your family. You should go in the evening so that the children can enjoy the lights and decorations, and you could even treat yourself to a mulled wine or some festive treats. 

Christmas pyjamas starting family traditions
Christmas PJs make for a wonderful new family tradition

Christmas pyjamas! You can incorporate this into Christmas movie night if you want to wear your Xmas family PJs for the whole of December, or this could be a Christmas present given to your children on Christmas Eve, ready to wake up all Christmas-clad on Christmas morning.  You can find all sorts of matching family pyjamas, or get everyone something different to suit their personality. I personally love the picture-perfect matching sets, and you can even find some really cheap versions at supermarkets and online.

Meet Santa! I have so many memories of visiting Santa Claus in his grotto and telling him what I wanted for Christmas. At my school he’d often give us Cadbury’s selection boxes, and I thought it was the most amazing thing ever. I later learnt that Father Christmas was my neighbour! This goes to show that Christmas really is a magical time of year, and your children will be filled with awe if they get to meet the extraordinary man in person. 

The penultimate tradition is the most simple tradition of all: decorating your Christmas tree. This is something that most of us will do, no matter what, so why not make it a real family event? Get everyone involved, assign different tasks to each child like tinsel to one and lights to another, and then let everyone put baubles all over the tree. If you have a grumpy grandad or stroppy teenager, give them the honour of putting the star or angel on top of the tree when it’s finished. That way, everyone gets involved.

Finally, take a Christmas photo. It can be staged in front of the tree, or a candid shot on Christmas morning. I personally like a couple of staged photos so that I can remember exactly how big everyone was and see how much they change over the years. Don’t spend Christmas looking through a lens or phone screen; it only happens once a year and you need to be in the moment, to really make the most of this special time with your precious family, but if you can take a few quick snaps you can cherish the memory forever. 

The best advice anyone can give

Enjoy Christmas. No matter how old your children are, this is a time of year that should be spent as a family and cherished forever. Don’t let the little things worry you too much, you could eat pizza on the living room floor and still have the time of your life. Cherish every minute, because they really do grow up so fast.

Side note: Something that’s doing the rounds on social media at the moment is the speech that “Santa can’t bring the same gifts for everyone, so will your child feel like he likes them less?” and it’s an idea that I totally agree with. If you have the money to buy cool technology and expensive gifts for your kids, then that’s your choice but consider telling them that they’re gifts from you, and Santa brought them one cool toy and not much else. That way, they can appreciate you and your generosity (Santa can’t get the credit for everything!) and Children whose parents don’t have the means to buy them expensive gifts don’t feel like they weren’t good enough. At the end of the day, your child will remember the moments they spent with you and the memories made, not what was left under the tree. 

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