A happy family is a family based on cooperation, connection and communication.

Let me start by saying that as a Dane I LOVE Christmas! Even the dark cold winter evenings can be magical. Where we light cozy candles inside to keep out the darkness.

It’s a time of the year where we can believe in anything, Santa, elves, angels, miracles, wonders and the love of mankind.

But for many parents sadly it’s also a time where we ramp up the stress and add pressure on ourselves to get everything done on time and to perfection. Because we want to make sure that everyone (especially the kids) enjoys and remembers this time of the year. Which means we can end up overspending, stressing and not enjoying what could be a really special time for us and our family.

There is too much ‘should, must, need to’ and often not enough time, energy or money.

The irony is that our kids will most likely not remember the expensive gifts, the well-cooked turkey or the perfectly decorated house! What they WILL remember is having parents who are relaxed, present and joining in the magic, fun and all the small traditions that we create, together.
The good news is that it is never too late to create your family’s magical Christmas, where you too can enjoy yourself and not just ‘get through it’.

1. Have agreements:
Start the season with a family chat where you agree on how much you can afford to pay for gifts this year, this way things are clear.
• Agree to job sharing: make Christmas a joint event and together plan the shopping, meal preparation and everyday chores (setting the table, cleaning up, vacuuming, loading the dishwasher etc). Make a ‘To Do List’ together and delegate jobs. Yes, we KNOW we can do it better and faster, but that just makes us a stressed, nagging and disconnected parent! Making everyone part of the preparation for Christmas builds on the positive experience and traditions. Doing jobs together will give your kids a sense of purpose and make them feel that they are needed, plus make you less of a nagging martyr. And by including your kids in the daily responsibilities and chores you set them up for success in the future. They will have learned from home that we all have to chip in in order to get a happy and harmonious holiday. You can also agree to doing a family fun thing every day. Having a screen free day over the holidays etc. Ask for help, don’t do it all by yourself: uncles, aunties, grandparents, friends, kids and partners can help too! A happy family is a family based on co-operation and teamwork.

2. Change yours and your kid’s language:
• Every time you hear yourself saying ’ahh I need to, should, must or have to’. STOP and think, ‘do I really’? Then only do what you ‘want to’. If there are things that you do need to do then choose to do it mindfully: I want to wrap up the kids presents since they look so nice afterwards and it is very relaxing doing it with a cup to tea and my favourites music. It is all in the mind.
• Use ‘WE’ more than ‘I’. ‘WE need to plan the meal’, ‘WE need to start writing Christmas cards’ etc. Make Christmas a joint effort.
• Also, bear in mind that Christmas is not the kids’ second birthday so tell them that they can ‘wish for, dream or hope for’. But not, ‘I want’!

3. Create small important family traditions:
It doesn’t have to be much or expensive:
• a family board-game that you play every year (we still play the same game as when my kids where small, they are now 22, 23 and 26 and they still love and look forward to it).
• Watch YOUR movie with Christmas cookies.
• An evening walk in the woods.
• Sing carols or Christmas songs around the Christmas tree.
• Get crafty: make decorations for the house, do small baking projects. You can even start making gifts together for family members, teachers or friends
Anything that is YOUR family tradition. This they WILL remember for the rest of their life as happy memories.

4. Turn up the Hygge:
Don’t get me started on this! This is the time of the year when we Danes really lay it on thick. We welcome light into the dark with candles. (CLICK here to read more in handout ‘turn up the hygge)

5. Make it all about giving:

Again remember that Christmas is not the kids’ second birthday so teach them to give instead of take or ‘want’.
Maybe throughout the month sit together and create some simple, small gifts for family, teachers and friends i.e. hama beads, draw pictures, make poems and frame them. Make cookies (or buy some to decorate) and put in a jar with a ribbon around. Maybe send cards to families and friends together. The ideas are endless.

6. Give up perfection and settle for peace:
Yes, your homemade is the best (and healthier) option, but you being present and happy is even better. It’s OK to buy pre-made food, cookies etc. in order to make life easier for ourselves and ease up time to be with our family in a relaxed way.

Focus on what really matters.

7. Forget ‘DOING’ and aim for more Me-Time:
Try to schedule some ‘Me-Time’ every day where you can get out and enjoy the crisp air, or have a bath, read a book or just sit and enjoy a cup of tea. Where you can reconnect with yourself, recharge your batteries and feel prepared for the time ahead.
All kids want is for their parents to be happy, so do it for them. Slow Down and Enjoy. Remember that you want your kids to look back at a time where you ALL had a great time, were connected and happy – where it was about the presence, not the presents!
So, allow yourself to slow down and enjoy every small, but important, moment throughout the month of December. Become a BE’er not a DO’er – try to stay more connected and focused when you are with your family. Put aside the worries, the chores, your to do list, cooking/cleaning/shopping etc. We are human beings not human doings!

Finally, join in the fun: have a snowball fight, make decorations together, make your own wish list, and sing the loudest. This is what your kids will remember and what Christmas is all about! Wishing you a happy and peaceful December

Best wishes Mette Theilmann founder of Predictable Parenting and creator of the Parenting Community app