For some families, the Christmas holidays are the highlight of the year. It’s time filled with fun family activities where the children are always perfectly behaved, are ever so grateful for all their Christmas presents, play delightfully with their siblings and volunteer to do chores daily without complaint for a blissful 7 weeks…if this is your family, please give me a call, I want to know how you do it!
The perfect holiday break doesn’t exist, any more than the flawless parent or the impeccable child does. Holidays can have beautiful moments of shared love, joy and fun – but to expect this to be the standard day and night for the whole 48 days between Celebration night and the first day of school is unrealistic and unfair to both you and your children. So, how can you make it through the holidays with your relationships with your children and spouses intact and rested to face the year ahead? Here are some tips that might help you have a happier and more realistically positive time:
- Know your children – different children and adults need and crave different things. One child may need lots of independent down time, another may struggle with nothing structured to do. Try to make sure everyone gets the chance to have time doing their special thing, and their needs met.
- Check out the Love Languages quizzes for some help working out what your child needs: https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/
- Set some boundaries: the temptation is to completely let go of all expectations and routine, after all it is often a holiday for you too. However, if you let go of these things, you will also let go of the benefits gained in reducing stress and managing behaviour. Some children need tighter boundaries than others, some will naturally develop their own rhythms that happen to work well with the family’s needs. Consider setting boundaries around sleep, time spent using technology, how much time is reasonable for you to run around after the children, active time, expectations for behaviour and participation in family activities. Be prepared to say ‘No’ to somethings, and stick to it.
- Be kind to yourself and each other, be flexible: Aim for being a “good enough” parent, not the perfect parent. You will make mistakes, and the kids will have off days. It’s not anyone’s fault, it’s a normal pattern of life that is amplified by a change of routine and being in close proximity for an extended period of time. Say sorry when you need to, and adjust your expectations and plans if you can see someone is having a hard day. It’s ok to make mistakes and to do what you need to, to be ok too!
- Evaluate part way through: If you are pulling your hair out and counting down the days until school returns, then that is probably an indication that you need to do try something different. Consider modifying your boundaries, and working out where you can extend a bit of grace. Have a reset day, where you try changing the patterns of behaviour. Talk with the kids about how they feel the holiday is going, and what they think you could try together that might change things.
- Seek help if things are getting out of hand: Hopefully you’ll make it through with only the standard ups and downs. Sometimes however things can get a bit much, and it’s time to call in reinforcements. Time and space can diffuse a lot of tension and frustration, so try inviting someone over for a play date, calling in a family member for back up or finding an activity that you can send them to. If things are getting really serious, then check out the “From the Counsellor” page on Chub for some more ideas.
Remember, every family is different. What works in the movies may not work for you and your children. The key is to decide what is needed for YOUR family to take care of each other and function, not try to live up to some other impossible standard. No one is perfect, and to be honest, no one really wants to be!