How to have a merry 'kidmas' - 3 things every parent should know
Yes, Christmas is supposed to be a period of happiness when families get time to spend together, eat well, and play games to celebrate the holiday season. However, while there are lots of articles on well-being for adults at Christmas, there is very little on the impact Christmas can have on our children.
Many parents think that Christmas is great for the kids because they don’t have to do anything and that they should be happy because they are getting gifts. While this can be true, other issues need to be considered.
No one wants to be Rudolf
At this time, some of our older children and teens will be worrying about the level of their popularity at school, in sports teams or youth groups, and other circles where they meet their peers. As children begin to have their parties, there will be heartache over who invited who and who didn’t get an invite.
While there may be practical explanations for this, no child will want to be the one left out, and we need to be vigilant to make sure that we are sensitive to the things our children are saying or behaviours they may be displaying.
Allow yourself to be available for them to talk to if they are upset. This means taking time away from your routine activity and sitting down with your child, away from any chores; shut off your phone so that you are undisturbed, and give them your undivided attention. Allow them to tell you what is on their mind without showing judgement or excess sympathy.
Show them empathy and, perhaps, tell them any experiences that you have had where this has happened to you. Sharing is bonding. Ask them how you can help, or if there’s anything they would like from you. It is hard not to pass comment or offer advice but only do so if your child is asking you for it. Ask their permission first to offer advice - this gives them a sense of control and makes them feel like you respect them, which means your advice will be valued and taken seriously instead of being dismissed.
The worst thing any parent can say is 'get over it!' This just blocks all lines of communication for the present and possibly their future, as no child will want to hear those words.
If possible, allow your child to have friends over during the Christmas period – they will need time to engage with their peer and friendship group.
Everyone needs their own space
Another consideration is the fact that homes fill with relatives who want to share in family celebrations and be with one another. This can lead to people staying over and children being ousted out of their rooms, often having to share with another sibling or sleep on the sofa. These situations are disrupting and take away the child’s ability to have space, which we all need over this period.
To help minimise feelings of resentment and to create environments that allow our children to have the space they may need, you should include your kids in any discussions about who is coming over, and ask them if they would be able to give up their room. Make sure they know how many days this will be for, and also agree with them how they can get the quiet/private time they need.
Online socialising is another factor to consider when dealing with older and teenage kids. As parents, we need to make sure that there is time allocated or space given to our children so that they can engage in their online activities, as without it they will become angry, resentful, and feel left out of what is happening in their social world. Again, agree with them how and when is appropriate.
You aren’t Santa - how to manage expectations
Most kids will expect to get presents at Christmas. This can create stress as to whether their long list of wants will be met, and it can also create tensions between siblings, with who and who didn’t get what they wanted. You aren’t Santa, and they should know that you can’t meet impossible wishes.
It’s hard to get it right, but it's also important to manage their expectations so that they don’t get overwhelmed, upset, or argumentative because their expectations weren’t met.
If you have a budget, explain that to them. Tell them you have a limit of £x to spend on presents for each child, and that this can’t be exceeded. Explain why this is so and how it is fair for each of them. You can ask them to prioritise their list following the budget set.
Conversely, allow them to feel relaxed around having to buy presents for friends, family, extended family, teachers, etc. Have those conversations with them about what their reasons are for wanting to buy gifts for so and so. Ask them if, by doing so, are they setting an obligation for others to do the same?
Will buying their friends gifts put unnecessary pressure on their friends to return the same? Can they all afford to do so? Will they be able to get something their friend really wants, or will it just be something that is sent off to the charity shop later?
By having these conversations and asking these questions, you can get your kids to think about the value of Christmas and release them from the worry of having to buy something, which allows you to reign in the feelings of expectation with realism and focus on the fact that Christmas can be fun and easy without the latest iPad, trainers, or mobile phone.
The most important thing throughout the festive period is to create a dialogue with your children and allow them to know that you are there without judgement if they need you. Spend time involving your kids in activities that create bonding and laughter; going on walks, cooking, baking, and playing games are just a few ideas. Make time to be there for your kids no matter how old they are.
If you find that your child is getting edgy and stressed out with the whole festive season, why not get them to try a little hypnotherapy to help them remain calm and build resilience to whatever the festive season throws at them? Self-hypnosis is very easy to do and the results are that you are left feeling calmer, more in control, and able to function much better in stressful situations. It's a good stress reliever for everyone!