Christmas is the big winter celebration in Great Britain, the day to look forward to – a day of warmth, of love, of joy and relaxation. However the build-up to the big day can be a great source of great anxiety for many families. Year on year debts occurred over the Christmas period are growing. Last year statistics showed that many people were still paying off their Christmas 2017 debts in April 2018. And it’s not just the economic expense of Christmas that causes stress. Strained relationships and complex family structures can cause conflict, and the expectations of friends, family and ourselves to enjoy ‘the perfect Christmas’ together can be overwhelming.
But does it have to be like this?
All families are different, but here are four suggestions to help you de-stress in the run up to Christmas.
- Be realistic
- Be honest with yourself and your children about your finances, how much you can afford for presents, food and decorations. Consider giving a gift as a family to someone in need, or a charity you support. Remember that although the media may try to make you believe that the more you spend the better the parent you are for your children, the reality is that the time you spend with them is more important.
- Communicate plans clearly
- Think ahead and talk about your Christmas plans with all the family and make sure that each person knows what will happen. If you are co-parenting, try to negotiate the best arrangements for your children. They have two parents and spending time with each of them is important.
- Maintain a normal healthy routine
- Look after yourself and your family. Continue to eat healthily, exercise and get good sleep, despite the changed routine of holiday time.
Make the most of precious time with children in their holiday from school. This may be time together playing games, watching a film or going out for walks or sport. Time with the children doesn’t need to cost money. It is also important to spend regular time with each child. Quality one-on-one time is usually the medicine that’s needed when things become chaotic or out of balance in the family. At Fegans we call this ‘Special Time’. This time lets a child know that they are valued and important, allows them the space to talk about things that are important to them and helps parents to get to know and understand each of their children uniquely, and without assumptions.
So how do we do this?
- Plan a regular time each day or week with your child. For younger children, 10 minutes a day and for older children, one hour a week.
- Let your child decide what to do and you follow their lead
- Chill out with them
- Be consistent – stick to the time and never take this special time away as a punishment
My grandson aged 8 years was having a bad day. His mother asked him what he wanted most. He said: “Time on my own with daddy.” Time can be transformative, as the messages it gives are powerful. Actions speak louder than words or money – time alone says: “You are worth this to me.”
For more parenting advice including articles on co-parenting through separation, creating precious time and reducing family stress, visit www.fegans.org.uk/parent-hub