Get the most out of being at home with your family this Christmas.  

Christmas is supposed to be the time of the year where we all get together and have a peaceful and magical time. But for some parents this can feel like a mountainous task. We worry about being stuck at home with too much time on our hands, the kids getting bored and playing up. Or being tired from entertaining the family, turning out three meals plus snacks every day and being around each other 24/7.
So let’s plan for a holiday where we aren’t counting the seconds till the kids go back to school!

Focus on what matters and connection

Of course, we want our kids to have a magical time but that doesn’t mean that everything has to be perfect. Focus on passion over perfection, just being together instead of how to get through it.

Leave the sink and BE with your family

I know it’s nice to have a clean and tidy house, but we all know that as soon as we have vacuumed it or cleaned it will just get dirty again!
So, leave the sink and join in with what your kids are doing. You don’t have to DO anything, just sitting with them, watching them and breathing the same air can be enough to connect and have a nice time together.

Be kind to yourself

Slow down and loosen up…it’s ok to stay in your PJs and watch a Christmas movie with hot chocolate…for breakfast. After all, isn’t that what holidays are for?
It’s ok to have beans on toast or cereal and not the full works fry up or cooked porridge for breakfast. After all, isn’t that what holidays are for?
It’s ok to buy cookies and decorate them with lots of icing sugar and sprinkles. You CAN make them of course and that can be fun, but don’t get into “have to” mode – that sucks the joy out of anything and ‘Competitive Christmasing’ is a rabbit hole we don’t want to fall down!

Get outside

Being indoors for too long can drive any family crazy. So, no matter the weather, get out there and walk, run or cycle some energy off.
Keep it simple and cheap. Go to the park or forest, take a stroll to see the Christmas tree in town, feed the ducks, visit friends and families, go for a walk around the block, walk into the village for a hot chocolate etc.

Less is more

Christmas is NOT a second birthday for kids so don’t be afraid to tone it down and offer small but meaningful gifts, treats and food.
Agree a budget and stick to it
● Tell your kids how much you can afford to spend this year and don’t feel guilty about it. They likely won’t remember what they got when they grow up anyway! But they WILL remember you being present, calm and having a nice time with them. They might be a bit disappointed at first (back to the Competitive Christmasing!) but that is OK.
● Who do you NOT need to buy gifts for: maybe it’s time to agree that adults don’t give each other bought gifts anymore? You can make them, offer experiences (i.e. come and have a meal at our house in the new year) etc. If you have a big family it can easily stack up to hundreds of pounds if you have to buy gifts for everyone. Once you float the idea I suspect others will be open to it too, maybe even relieved.
● How much can you afford to spend on food this year? Again think of a budget and stick to it. And be creative, some shops are cheaper than others, and many will have Christmas offers, so find the shops that work with your budget.
Things to do at home

You might be worried that screens are going to take over during the holiday so try to come up with a plan for some creative “non screen” fun: get cooking/baking, get crafty with the glitter and glue, rearrange the children’s rooms, have a movie night, let the kids make a den with the sofa and blankets, get the toys out in the living room etc.

Managing screen time over the holidays

Have the ‘chat’ before the holidays start and come up with a plan together…
● Set timers to monitor the agreement you have made.
● Try to have some family activities planned every day that get you away from screens.
● How to introduce new gadgets into your home: your kids might get a new phone, or a new version of a game that they will be really excited about. The trick lies in being on top of any new games or gadgets from the beginning, to have a strategy ‘connected’ to your own values, to plan what you will and won’t allow and agree to it before the new ‘family member’ arrives!
● Lead by example: children will always gravitate toward the modelled behaviours of their parents. You are your child’s role model – so if you cannot disconnect, how can you expect your child to disconnect? If they see you reading a book, they are more likely to read. If they see you watching television, on your phone or computer etc., they will do the same. Consider them your screen shadows.

Boredom is ok..

Ah… the entertainment trap. It is such an easy one for parents to fall into, especially over the holidays. As parents we often feel we have to entertain our children all the time, assuming it’s our duty to occupy and engage them while they remain mostly passive, waiting for us to entertain them.

The good news is that your kids don’t need to be entertained all the time. In fact, one of the most important things you can give your children during the holidays is free, unstructured and unplugged playtime and let them figure out what to do using their own imagination.

Letting your children be bored can be terrifying the first time you do it, but it’s a lot easier than you might think. They’ll complain at first, but just wait a few minutes and they’ll find something to do on their own.

Kids are more creative when they’re bored. When their minds are unoccupied, they start to daydream, and that daydreaming sparks creative thought. When our kids are bored, it helps them find value in their own experiences and develop their own unique worldview, which makes them psychologically stronger for the future.

Have a peaceful and restful holiday.

Mette Theilmann, Director of Predictable Parenting & founder of the Parenting Community App