There is a lot of pressure for everything to be ‘perfect’ during the holiday season.
Perfect decorations, perfect food, perfect presents, and perfect kids, dressed in perfect outfits.
The thing is, this time of the year can be kind of stressful.
It can be stressful for us adults, and stressful for our kids.
There are extra events parties, different food, changes to routines and late nights. And, if you live in the southern hemisphere like we do, it’s also the end of the school year, and we all know how exhausting that is!
This time of year can be exhausting and overwhelming, but despite that, there is often an expectation that the holidays need to be ‘special’, and ‘magical’, and ‘perfect’. Sometimes those expectations come from others, but often we find ourselves buying into the crazy game of ‘a perfect Christmas’ and we put a whole lot of extra pressure on ourselves, and, without realising it, on our kids.
We want the kids to behave at all these holiday events. We want them to say and do the right things. We want them to let Aunty Flo kiss their cheeks and exclaim over how much they have grown without them rolling their eyes in response.
But we forget that our kids are still kids.
Kids that might struggle with changes to routine. Kids that could pick up on all the stress. Kids that might feel overwhelmed sometimes. Kids that still need to run and move. Kids that might forget to be careful and get chocolate mousse all over their new outfit right before you take the family photo. And kids that are still learning how to be polite when Aunty Josephine gives them another pair of underwear.
Let’s cut our kids some slack this Christmas and remember that kids are still kids, even at Christmas.
Remember who your child is. They will not magically morph into a different person just because it is Christmas.
Your picky eater will not magically sit up and eat whatever grandma serves her, and your non-hugger will not suddenly be ok with random family members demanding affection, your toddler won’t be able to stay up four hours after their bedtime and still be a cherub, and your wild child won’t randomly sit still and quietly during dinner. Accept your child for who they are, and plan ways to manage the things they will find difficult.
Remember to cover the basics first. Make sure everyone gets enough sleep, and that they are eating and drinking enough decent food.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have a late night, or a dinner of party food, it just means you need to balance those things with an early night and some healthy food. And take a bottle of water for each kid to whatever event you go to… believe me it makes a big difference if they have easy access to water.
Remember to plan for some downtime everyone.
It’s ok to say no, even at Christmas. It is ok to leave early, or to decide that this event is not for your family.
Remember not to plan too many events that you know your kids will struggle with.
If you stack lots of big, overwhelming events, one after the other, eventually your child is going to crash and burn, and the explosion might happen at the worst possible time. So pick the activities that are really important and make sure you have recovery time between them.
Remember kids get bored when they have to wait around and bored kids can spell disaster.
Plan something appropriate the kids can do while they wait, or when they get bored of all the adult stuff that is going on. Print some activity sheets, take a card game to play, go for a walk… keep it simple but fun.
Remember to teach kids how to behave.
Kids can’t do well if they don’t know how. There are lots of things that happen at this time of year that kids are not used to, so teach them how to manage it all by talking about it ahead of time, and by supporting them to get it right at the time.
Teach your kids what to say if they get a gift they don’t particularly like. Teach them how to politely decline a hug, or food. Explain to them ahead of time what they can or cannot do at each event. Teach them how to cope with their annoying little cousin who won’t leave them alone. Explain to them that they can come and tell you if they are feeling overwhelmed or unsure and that you will help them manage it.
There is nothing wrong with wanting Christmas to be special and magical, but let’s not confuse special, with perfect.
Let’s remember to give our kids grace and understanding during this busy time.
Let’s ‘expect a little more, but accept a little less‘, and let’s remember that our kids are wonderful, and amazing, but they are still kids, even at Christmas.