Through all the excitement of eggnog and elves on shelves, sometimes we forget that Christmas can also become an overwhelming, over-stimulating time for children. From the pressure of being too naughty to receive a gift to the anxiety a plate of sprouts and roast parsnips can bring, the burst of excitement come Christmas morning can sometimes be overshadowed by stress. Today, vlogger SJ Strum is sharing her tips for keeping all her children (aged 9, 6 and almost 3) relaxed during the lead up to Christmas and on the big day itself. Watch the video or read our tips below to find out more.
1. Teach them the real meaning
Before Christmas became the giant marketing campaign that it is today, it was known for its charitable beginnings. Sharing the importance of giving and spreading joy is a lovely way to steer children away from the commercialism of it all. You could have a de-cluttering day, choosing toys they no longer play with to give to charity - not only to make space for new toys they will be receiving, but to bring fun and happiness to another child elsewhere! You can start young with this activity; as soon as your child is old enough to acknowledge the play value in their toys and the happiness they bring, they will be excited to pass them on and make another child feel just as happy.
2. Try not to limit food options
Christmas food traditions are a tricky thing when you have children. The idea of everyone enjoying a turkey or nut roast dinner is all well and good, but the reality of it is, most children will not enjoy or will refuse to eat what is on their plate. Rather than upsetting a fussy eater or creating anxiety by trying to force new food upon children at this time, why not take the stress and pressure away by involving them in the meal planning? Asking what they would love to see on their Christmas Day dinner plate is a good way to ensure there is at least one thing they will happily eat available. If they ask for chicken nuggets it's not going to make or break the day, but it will make things run more smoothly. If you are spending the day away at family or a friend's house, be sure to ask them in advance if they can accommodate your child's needs.
3. Be aware of your language
SJ always tries to avoid falling into the 'naughty' or 'nice' language surrounding Christmas. Too much pressure can be put on children this way when they spend their time in the lead up to Christmas worrying about whether or not Father Christmas will think they deserve a gift. Long gone are the days of coal filled stockings - perhaps naughty and nice lists should be next?
4. Tactical gifting
With children of all different ages, it can be hard to keep things equal when it comes to presents. Older children might want one more expensive gift, younger children might like a big toy that is a little cheaper and toddlers will be happy with a few small cheap gifts. A good way to keep the balance is to buy an equal amount of presents for each child and try to get as many to be as equally sized as you can.
For younger children who might be overwhelmed by the amount of presents under the tree on Christmas morning and lose interest quickly, it is a good idea to spread their gifts out throughout the day. For example, SJ suggests a new outfit in the morning to wear all day, a new board game to open and play after lunch when everyone is settled with full bellies and a new set of bath toys for the bedtime routine. This will give them little sparks of joy all day long rather than one big burst at the start.
5. Get outdoors
If a big family walk isn't already part of your Christmas tradition, you should really consider it this year! Fresh air will do everyone some good, especially if you have gone overboard with the Quality Street throughout the day! Plus, it will allow the kids to blow off some steam before it's time to settle down for bed. Just remember to wrap up warm - discover our kids' cosy outerwear collections here.
6. A good night's sleep
Christmas Eve is probably the busiest night of the year for parents. So, you'll want to avoid any interruptions from little ones past their bedtimes. A carefully planned Christmas Eve box can help children get ready for bed in no time - pack in a cosy new pair of pyjamas, a Christmassy bedtime story and a relaxing activity like Play-Doh to get them calm and settled for a good night's sleep. If you can get all this done a little earlier than usual, you'll be grateful when it gets to the 5am start!
7. Travel tips
If you are making a long journey to visit friends or family this festive season, SJ recommends taking your own pillows with you. This can help children feel more comfortable on the ride and will help you to avoid any allergy or sensitivity issues once you arrive at your destination. If you are staying for a few nights, you could also pack a couple of your little one's favourite teddies or toys and a bedtime story, so they know they have their own little space and things to play with in this new environment.