Have Yourself A Conscious Little Christmas

It’s the most stressful time of the year… so how can we make Christmas for our children a little calmer, a little kinder, and a little more conscious?

Whether you’re a year-round-carol-singer or a not-til-the-first-of-December-er, the festive season is, undeniably, upon us. As parents, we can’t help but want our little ones to experience all the most magical things the season has to offer. But, between family get-togethers, shopping trips, and more fairs and parties than you thought humanly possible, the magic can soon give way to tantrums… and I wouldn’t blame you if you were one the one crying!

Last year, Christmas was a strange affair, with many of us forced to spend time alone. As a result, this year it might all seem a little bit louder, and a little bit more hectic than before, as everyone rushes to meet up with that person they haven’t had a coffee with in 2 years. On top of that, this could be one of your little one’s first Christmases, and suddenly you’re having to make decisions like ‘do we say that Santa is real?’ or ‘should we get an ‘Elf on the Shelf’?’.

1. Let go of expectations.

We all have an image of the perfect Christmas. Maybe it’s rosy cheeks in the snow, carolling by candlelight, or your little one smiling at you as you both take part in an old family tradition. However, your little one is their own human being with their own expectations and triggers at an overwhelming time of year.
As lovely as the ‘perfect’ Christmas would be, you simply cannot provide that, and striving to will only set you up for disappointment. Instead, try to take a step back, and simply enjoy the festive experiences you do have.

2.  Don’t be afraid to wave goodbye to tradition.

This year, try to take a look at the things you think you ‘need’ to do, and ask yourself ‘how will this truly make me feel?’. Just because you’ve always done something, doesn’t mean you have to carry on, especially if it doesn’t actually make anyone that happy! When I was little, every year we had Christmas pudding, despite the fact that none of us actually liked Christmas pudding. This year, I’ll be making something else - it’s that simple (no matter what your in-laws say)!

3. Take the Elf off the Shelf.

At this time of year, we’re surrounded by scare tactics and bribes designed to get children to ‘behave’: Naughty and Nice Lists, elves who check if you’re being ‘good’, threats that Santa won’t bring any gifts. Last week, I even saw a TikTok advising parents to wrap empty boxes, address them to their children and put them under the tree, just so they could throw them on the fire if they misbehaved.

In this atmosphere, it’s particularly important to remember that kids aren’t good or bad, and are still learning to regulate their behaviour - something that can be particularly difficult when you’re excited and full of sugar. If you do decide to do Santa (and there’s no pressure to if it doesn’t suit you!), then make him unconditional: rather than a law-enforcer, he’s a benevolent character who sees the good in all children, no matter who they are or where they come from. Try to make presents less something that is earned, and more a symbol of the love and care we have for each other.

4. Beware sensory overload.

Children can be sensitive to overstimulation, and as someone who can struggle with sensory processing, I can confirm how easy it is to suffer from sensory overload at Christmas! Shops and streets are crowded, music is being blasted from every door and twinkly lights and bright colours take over even the most drab corner.
Try to keep an eye on your little one’s energy and stress levels, and don’t be afraid to cut an activity short or take a step out to a quiet space if need be. If they have certain triggers, such as itchy clothes or hunger, then avoid them where possible!

5. Keep up the routine.

This is definitely easier said than done! Routine helps children to feel safe and secure, so, even if it just means sticking to vaguely similar mealtimes and bedtimes, try and stick to your usual routines as much as possible - and, when they inevitably go out the window, explain to your little one what’s happening, and try to remain sympathetic if they struggle.

6. Build in quiet time.

For both of you! As easy as it can be to fill every waking moment with some kind of event or activity, you both need time to recharge. Snuggle up with a book, take a long bath, cuddle together while watching a Christmas movie, and remember to get some sunlight and fresh air! It may be cold, but you still need it!

Also, don’t forget that not everything needs to be festive. If reading Dracula and sipping a summery cocktail is going to give you a sense of peace and calm, go for it.

7. Don’t force hugs and kisses.

All those distant relations and family friends who live at the other end of the country: you know them well, but your child probably doesn’t. Retaining boundaries is important for your little one’s sense of body autonomy - not to mention that getting a big wet kiss on the cheek from a total stranger can be… uncomfortable. So, don’t force your little one to engage in physical contact with anyone they don’t want to. 
If you’re worried, plan ahead by mentioning it to family, or come up with alternatives such as high-fives or blowing a kiss.

8. Have a go at Festive Mindfulness

Not all Christmas activities need to be a thrill-ride. Why not bring a little festive cheer into your calm, mindful moments? For example, do a mindful eating exercise, noticing the effect your favourite gingerbread or hot chocolate has on all 5 of your senses. 
We’ll have more Christmas Mindfulness activities coming in our Newsletter on Tuesday, so keep an eye out, and sign up at the bottom of the page if you haven’t already!

9. Be a patient and gentle guide.

As we’ve already mentioned, the excitement of Christmas is a lot to deal with, so your little one isn’t going to be a sweet, gratitude-filled angel every moment of every day. If they misbehave, try to remain patient and calm, and simply be a positive role model. If they forget to say thank you, say it for them!

10. Save something for next year!

Feeling a bit tired? Diary so full you’re writing in the margins? There’s always next year! No matter how fun something sounds, if it’s going to be more beneficial to take a quiet afternoon, then leave the exciting activity for another year.
Remember, try to focus on how you want to feel, rather than what you want to do.

11. Enjoy your time together.

Lastly, just enjoy this special time with your little ones. Revel in their excitement - and maybe let their childish wonder infect you, too. 

Merry Christmas!

Content Creator at MEplace
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