So want do you say to yourself at this time?
- Yahhhh I love Christmas;
- It’s so expensive;
- I can’t want for it to be over;
- I love watching the kids faces on Christmas morning;
- Family disagreements – no thanks;
- I love family get togethers, especially Christmas;
- I love the excitement and special treats.
Which ever sentiments you have about Christmas, the reality is it is approaching fast! What can we do to make it a pleasant, positive experience for children and families? Here’s some ideas…
Craft with Children: Have some special Christmas rituals. Many families have trees and decorations, but what about making your own cards with the children, or getting them to paint wrapping paper – use a roll of brown ‘lunch’ wrap, and give them red and green paint to create with.
Include the children: Get them to help select gifts for different people: “Do you think Aunty Sue would like the green socks or the yellow ones? (within your budget of course!). Let the children help to put up the decorations – we know that it might not be ‘perfect’ but in allowing our children to help, we make them feel valued.
Get them cooking: This is a great time to get in the kitchen and cook some biscuits and slices to give away or eat yourself – a gingerbread mix and cookie cutters are great! One year my children and I cut out ‘labels’ (or gift tags) from gingerbread mix, poking a hole in it for the ribbon, and when baked, piped on people’s names with icing sugar – they were very popular.
Shopping: As it gets closer to Christmas, and the shops are busier, aim to shop early, before it’s too crowded – we know that young children don’t have the patience to wait in those long queues. If you do need to go at that time, make sure they’ve eaten, had a drink, and been to the toilet, to minimise stress all round.
Gifts: Over the years, I’ve noticed a growing trend amongst parents, to give their children everything they ‘want’. Children are encouraged to tell Santa what they want for Christmas, and it’s often tied to ‘being good’. You and I know that we will give our children gifts, even if they haven’t been well-behaved; so it’s probably unwise to use this as a ploy for good behaviour. In a similar vein, avoid using Santa as a threat eg “You better not do that again, because then Santa won’t come” – you and I know ‘he’ will. By all means encourage your children to be well behaved, but without idle threats. Christmas doesn’t need to send you bankrupt – maybe one main gift for the children and then smaller items. It’s important for developing children to learn that they can’t expect to receive everything they ask for. It doesn’t happen to us as adults – because if it did, I would have a red Ferrari in the drive-way!
Generosity: I’ve heard of parents doing this, and I love the idea. Each year, they encourage the children to sort through their toys and books, and to give some away to less fortunate children. They select toys which are still in good condition, but which they’ve outgrown, and give them to local charities. I believe it’s important for children to learn generosity, and it’s starts with the parents modelling, and with encouragement.
Gratitude: In this vein also, encourage your children to say a clear thank you to those who give them gifts – the art of gratitude. We know small children (under 5) are ego-centric – they are ‘me’ focusssed. However you can still encourage gratitude.
Sleep: Ensure that the children get a good nights sleep, particularly in the last few days before Christmas, so that they (and you!) can enjoy the next day.