Christmas – a time of festive family fun and memory making… when it goes well that is, but for many parents of young children Christmas can be a time of stress, anxiety, exhaustion and arguments. From the everlasting lure of the Christmas tree ornaments, just begging to be stripped by curious chubby hands, to the frustration of your little darling refusing to eat any of their lovingly prepared Christmas dinner – not just the Brussels sprouts – and perhaps the worst of all, enduring the tuts and “in my day children were seen and not heard” comments of your mother in law.
For parents of little ones Christmas can be a fierce test of endurance and Christmas spirit. But never fear, there are ways to cope without downing Great Aunt Edna’s 20 year old bottle of sherry in the pantry! Read on for our ten top festive parenting tips.
1. Reset your expectations. Visions of 1950s movies, with roasting chestnuts and rosy cheeked children in awe at receiving a Satsuma in their stocking belong just there – in fantasy land. In reality most homes resemble a bomb site by 10am on Christmas morning, children won’t feign joy when unwrapping a boxed handkerchief set from your Grandmother and the only colour to their cheeks will come from the smeared chocolate orange they snaffled from the kitchen at 5am.
2. Stock up on batteries well beforehand. Even if you don’t think you need them, buy some in every size because inevitably your child’s favourite present will require batteries and you won’t have any that fit, resulting in much trauma for the rest of the day. Alternatively don’t buy toys that need batteries – ever – and save your sanity and nerves when you accidentally set off the freaky doll that says “I want to play” on your way back from the nursery at 3am.
3. Babies and toddlers love boxes, don’t be down-heartened or take It personally when they ignore their lovingly selected presents and prefer to play with the box, this is a universal toddler play law
4. Don’t expect your toddler to eat their Christmas lunch, especially if it involves Brussels sprouts, food tastes stronger and much more bitter to young children, to them you may as well be trying to make them eat neat vinegar.
5. Don’t take any unwanted parenting advice seriously. The chances are your in-laws, parents, aunts and other relatives have a rose tinted vision of their early parenting years and have forgotten what it was really like. Nod and smile sweetly, or better still change the subject when they start to give you advice.
6. Don’t expect your toddler to sleep well the night before Christmas, the excitement is too much for them, why not give in and let them stay up and fall asleep on the sofa in front of a festive family film?
7. Be prepared that the idea of Father Christmas can be pretty scary to young children, think about it, would you like a big man with a long beard in a funny red outfit breaking in to your house whilst you were in bed asleep? You could arrange that you meet him at the door and take in the presents when your child is asleep instead. Much less scary!
8. Stagger present opening throughout the day, or even over a few days so that your toddler doesn’t become overwhelmed (which usually results in a meltdown).
9. Don’t expect your toddler to share his new presents with his or siblings or cousins. Toddlers really don’t understand the idea of sharing until at least 4 or 5 years old. Imagine if somebody told you to share your presents of new perfume or favourite chocolates as soon as you’d unwrapped them. You wouldn’t like it much either!
10. Try to restrict the amount of sweets and chocolate that your toddler eats, all of the extra sugar and colourings are likely to make him hyper which will have a negative effect on both sleep and behaviour. Plus you can secretly eat them all when he’s gone to bed instead.