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Parenting at Christmas – Tips for Staying Sane

by Andrea M. Darcy

Parenting at Christmas can be the parenting challenge of the year. How to survive it intact?

When parenting styles collide

It’s definitely the time of year that different parenting styles can be most apparent.

When under stress (or when a bit too ‘jolly’ from the mulled wine) we tend to revert back to old habits. This can mean the usual agreements made over giving kids money, letting them stay up late, etc., can all start to falter.

How to make parenting at Christmas work

How can you avoid one partner being made into the Christmas grinch and the other a jolly Santa this year?

1. Have a proper parenting discussion in advance.

Decide what flexibility to normal rules you will allow over the holidays and commit to sticking to your agreements. And discuss what positive parenting approaches you will use.

If you are breaking any custody agreements in the case of a divorce, then make sure you get any exceptions in writing.

2. Come up with an agreed ‘stop word’.

Find an agreed stop word to be used if you are close to arguing about parenting in front of the kids. And once it’s used, agree that you will both stop and discuss further when the kids aren’t about.

Am I stressed or depressed online quiz

3. Set the family Christmas budget in stone.

Money and breaking the budget is one of the main causes of disagreement between parents this time of year, so handle it now. Leave a slight contingency for forgotten items and emergencies so it’s realistic.

Divorced and one parent is much richer than the other? Consider agreeing to either a cost limit, or to buying shared presents and avoiding gift showmanship that can leave one parent feeling bad.

4. Be a team during family events.

Christmas get-togethers can often see one partner having their parenting style criticised by a nosy sister or bossy mother. Even if a part of you might agree with the feedback, it’s not the time to say so. Support your spouse in front of family, and save any constructive criticism for a conversation in the new year.

The elves are watching your parenting during the holidays….

parenting at christmas

By: Lance Neilson

The holidays are a unique combination of high stress levels and the kids around non stop. This means perhaps you need to worry less about your kids’ behaviours, and more about your own. Your kids will take their own stress levels from yours, and will also respond to conflict in ways they see you doing so.

More parenting tips for the holidays

How can you set a reasonably good example?

1. There’s festive, then there is overly festive.

A glass or two of grandma’s vodka punch can seem like just ‘getting into the spirit’.

But for a child, both parents becoming incoherent can cause a feeling the world is not safe. Agree in advance to drinking limits you’ll stick to at family affairs, or schedule turns being the sober one.

2. Catch your complaining and be a respectful parent this Christmas.

It’s the time of year you might want to complain about your partner’s timekeeping, their lack of organisation, their family you can’t stand… . But listening to such endless digs can be toxic for a sensitive child who takes all things personally.

3. Brush up on good communication.

If ever there was a good time to brush up on communicating skills it’s now (our piece on communicating under stress can be a good start). Your kids will mimic your communication style with siblings.

Try to avoid ‘blame’ statements that begin with ‘you did/said’ when talking to your children or spouse, even if you are coparenting at Christmas and don’t get along.  And ask good questions instead of making assumptions.

4. Keep what routine you can.

Consistency is important with parenting, and actually leads to the kids feeling less anxious. So even though it is the holidays, things like a regular bedtime and mealtimes can mean everyone is more levelheaded.

5. Less greed, more giving when parenting at Christmas. 

If your kids are over focussed on presents, what can you do to set a better example? Can each family member choose a personal item to give to a less fortunate family? Or consider volunteering together. As an added bonus volunteering is proven to improve moods.

Stress less, parent better this season

If there is anything that throws off parenting skills it’s stress. We are all guilty of taking out a bad mood on a child or losing our patience.

With the very real stress of the holiday season, what can truly help?

1.Take at least one timeout a week.

It might seem the one time of year there really isn’t any time to take for yourself but this is exactly why you should. From a quick exercise class to a beer at the pub, take turns giving each other a break. You’ll be better parents for it.

parenting during holidays

By: Fil.Al

2. Delegate even if you are loathe to do so.

Feeling you have to take care of everything yourself as ‘nobody else gets it right’ is actually a power move connected to a victim mentality. Let others have a go this year. And allowing your kids do things like decorating the cookies and writing the cards can mean they feel more a part of things.

3. Stop comparing.

It doesn’t matter what the perfect holiday season is supposed to look like, how your neighbours or sister-in-law are doing things, or what Christmas was like when you were a child.

Each time you hear yourself make a comparison, see it as an opportunity to stop and be mindful. What is going right right now? What do you have to be grateful for in this moment?

4. Exchange expectations for enjoyment.

Expecting too much of your holiday, or of your children and their behaviour, can lead to conflict. Try to just enjoy things as they are and accept that your children, and you yourself, won’t be perfect.

If all else fails about parenting at Xmas…

Parenting crisis? Just feel you can’t take it anymore? Don’t feel you have to go it alone. Some counsellors and psychotherapists specialise in parenting for a reason. Being a parent can be a tough job, sometimes we all need an impartial ear.

Harley Therapy connects you with highly rated family and parenting therapists in London at several central locations. Can’t find a babysitter? Our therapists offer online therapy sessions.

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Blog Topics: Parenting

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