Christmas surivial guide for mums
'Tis the season for lots of things - but stress ideally shouldn't be one of them. Olivia Willis suggests some festive season coping strategies
Christmas can be a really special time for families but it can also add some extra stresses - especially for us mums, right?
December 25 is just around the corner, and I bet most of you are starting to feel the pressure already - there's so much to buy, so much to do, and so many people to keep happy.
The period leading up to Christmas is a busy time
The festive period can be a time when families argue more than usual, over what may seem like minor things (this can sometimes be the case with extended family who you only see at this time of year). So how do you prepare? What can you do to cut down on all the stress in advance?
Start making a list of things you need to do for Christmas weeks ahead: for example, shopping for food and presents, decorations or travel arrangements if you need to travel.
When you care about those closest to you, it is not unusual to want to buy something special. Sometimes you may feel pressure to buy something that is outside your price range. Try to remember that presents don't represent what you feel for someone. It is a good idea to stick to what you can afford.
While shopping locally has many advantages, high streets and shopping centres just before Christmas can be particularly stressful. Consider shopping online from the comfort of your own home as you'll not only save time and be less stressed but will probably save money too.
It's still a strong tradition in Ireland to send and receive lots of cards so start now, if you can, and write a few cards and envelopes each night after the kids have gone to bed and then post them altogether when you have them completed - don't forget to check with your post office when the last day for international post is.
The day itself
Christmas Day can often mean a full house for some. It may just be your immediate family; however, it is not unusual to have grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins around for Christmas. It could be that you only see some of these people infrequently and don't feel you have a lot in common with them.
It is a good idea to remember to try and respect people's space and if things are getting on top of you, try to take some time out.
Creating some Christmas magic for your children needs to take priority… We have a saying in our family - Christmas is all about the kids. But the reality is that children can get totally stressed out by all the rushing around.
Give stress a holiday
Try to slow down and lower your expectations as far as the Christmas celebrations go. You - and your child - will enjoy your Christmas much more if Mum and Dad are calm and relaxed about the whole thing.
Spend meaningful time together
Call a halt to the preparations and go to see a Christmas film or go for a special meal/treat with your children. Even something as simple as a walk in the park is a peaceful retreat from the Christmastime chaos.
Help your kids see past the presents
Many children get stressed by the materialism of the Christmas season. Talk to them about your own family's cultural (or religious) traditions by chatting to them for a few minutes each day. Kids love to hear about the 'olden days' and nostalgia is good for the soul for you too. It will help young children see beyond the materialism and zone in on the more traditional, spiritual side of Christmas.
Involve your children
It's easy for the kids to feel left out as you panic, running around trying to get everything ready on time. Get them involved and give them a sense of purpose within all the festivities by writing up a special 'to do' list for them. Make it fun though: not just jobs!
Don't neglect routine
As far as possible, stick to the mealtimes and bedtimes your kids are used to. Babies and toddlers especially find great comfort in routine and they'll be reassured by knowing that some things continue to stay normal even amidst the chaos. It will also give you a break in the evening / during naptime, which is so important.
Make sure there's some physical activity in the mix for all the family: exercise promotes the release of endorphins, which help relieve stress and tension. If it's cold, still go out but wrap up - the fresh air will do you all the world of good.
Remember it's your Christmas too so try to relax and have fun, laugh and be merry. If you do find others around you difficult, then try to rise above the situation. If things don't go exactly according to plan, try not to stress, instead laugh about them and make them into fun memories that you can talk about during Christmases to come. "Remember that time Mum set fire to turkey?!"
Have a great, stress-free Christmas break!
Olivia Willis is the co-founder of familyfriendlyhq.ie, an Irish family website with information for parents, things to do, daily blogs, reviews and expert family advice
Top tips for a cracking family Christmas
● If you have a full house this Christmas, don't waste time on personal issues: Let bygones be bygones. Christmas is not about opening up old wounds.
● Don't hurdle yourself into DIY crafting projects unless you have the time and the resources. If homemade was your wish for this year and it's not going to happen, surrender, outsource it/buy it and make it a goal for next year.
● Stick to recipes that you are confident with and good at. Now is not the time to be experimenting, especially if you are feeding the hordes.
● Book a delivery slot early with a supermarket that delivers on Christmas Eve and order your groceries online.
● Limit all the commitments and try to spend more time at home, instead of packing in all that catching up with everyone prior to Christmas. Instead schedule a catch up in the New Year when cabin fever will have set in.
● Do not overestimate how much you can achieve on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Many recipes can, at least in some part, be made ahead of time and frozen, thus reducing tasks in the immediate run-up to Christmas Day.
● Delegate the responsibility for certain tasks to other family members since this will reduce your workload. Keep your list for next year; it'll need the odd tweak but will give you reminders of the sorts of things you need to think about.
● Have a 'Great Escape' plan. It's a good idea to have some pre-planned excuses to escape from proceedings if they get too stressful. Be imaginative and use things such as leaving the room to make a phone call, or perhaps checking on a neighbour. Having a couple of escape routes in the bag will leave you less stressed, and leaving the 'situation' -even for a few minutes - will help clear your mind and relax you.
● Know when to stop! Decide when you will halt your Christmas preparations and start to relax and enjoy the holiday.
Work towards and try to stick to this goal. Remember that Christmas is Mum's holiday too.