Little kids make Christmas fun again for us jaded adults. They bring the magic! But they can also bring the tears, tanties and exhaustion. Small people are wildly unpredictable, highly excitable and really aren’t built for the festive season. Tiredness and sugar are a diabolical combination.
Along the way, I’ve figured out a few things that ease the pressure on my family during the silly season. These are the tips I’ve learnt, but that’s not to say I don’t relearn them every year!
1. Respect the nap
Christmas meltdowns are inevitable. But they can be less severe with a bit of a power nap. Some kids really need that afternoon nap, or they morph into The Incredible Hulk without the moral compass. Same goes for the parents (Ha ha ha as if that will ever happen – a girl can dream).
If kids need to sleep, see if you can work around the family plans. My kids don’t have proper day sleeps any more, but if things are going bad, a 10 minute drive in my kid’s sleep drug of choice – the car – can do wonders.
2. Limit the gifts
Okay, I have never quite nailed this one, but each year I ask that rellos don’t go too nuts on the presents. The kids really don’t need to tear open 15 packages of future landfill. A few toys are great. Clothes are always welcome. Books have less immediate impact, but have much more longevity than a plastic dolly makeup table, which will inevitably be missing by sundown, sparking an epic breakdown (followed by an even bigger one from me).
3. Buy the same stuff
Again, not always possible, but if you can buy siblings and cousins the same gifts, you can avoid jealousy and fights. Present envy is an ugly thing and can make the best of cuzzies become the worst of enemies.
4. Do one thing a day
Everyone wants to see your family on Christmas Day. But if you see Christmas as a weeklong celebration, it’s possible to have a nice time and relax without carting the kids to a million different locations, with them fighting in the car all the while.
We normally have four Christmases and spread them out from the December 20 to 31. The kids have more fun, we get to chill out a bit and we don’t get the stink eye from Aunty Jean because we’ve only popped into her place for an hour and can’t possibly eat anything more (and yes, fresh prawns are a treat but we’ve already eaten buckets today and no, the kids don’t need anymore candy canes, can’t you see their dilated sugar pupils?!).
5. Get outside
Kids are not built to sit at a table for hours listening to stories about second cousin Peter’s prostate examination. They need to run free.
If we have an event where, God forbid, Christmas lunch is in a restaurant, we try to take the kids for a swim or a run at the park beforehand so they can get the sillies out. Otherwise they will crawl under the table and begin biting people on the leg. I would like to avoid that this year.
6. Make your own Christmas tradition
We used to cave in and say yes to everyone. But these days, Christmas morning belongs to us. We have a special breakfast, open presents and hang out as a foursome. In between all the parties and family events, it’s so nice just to be together. It’s nothing special, but it’s my favourite part of Christmas.
Except when I’m expected to build the Lego. Or when I can’t find the tiny Phillips head screwdriver to open miniature compartments to put batteries in. But, nothing is supposed to be easy!
Don’t stop believing! Why I’m happy to fake it for Santa
A new study says lying about Santa damages kids' trust, and Shevonne Hunt's seeing red.
5 classic Christmas books to read your child
Refresh your story time repertoire this festive season.
Meshel Laurie’s advice on how to stop being a busy parent
It's a time that can feel particularly crazy. But really, we're swamped all year.
6 gentle ways to manage Christmas stress
In the chaotic swirl of festivity, here's how to get a grip!
Ruff and tumble: What to know before buying a pet this Christmas
Because no one wants to be the only person picking up poop for the next 15 years.
5 smart festive hacks for busy parents
A few tips to help make the mad rush easier.
How to add more heart to your Santa sack
Gifts that have the double impact of making your child smile, and helping someone else.
“You're so cute I could EAT you!” Why we sometimes want to nibble on our babies