Do you remember what Christmas was like when you were a kid? I'd hear the weatherman on TV track Santa's progress from the North Pole and telling me I needed to get to bed. I'd listen for the sound of reindeer's hooves on the roof. I spent days wondering what was in those brightly wrapped packages under the tree. The first one up on Christmas morning? It was me. Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be the most stressful, especially for your kids. Here are some suggestions to minimize their stress.
Routine Keep your routine as much as possible. Everything about Christmas disrupts our routine. But routines are what makes kids feel safe and secure. You don't have to go to every holiday party. Avoid dragging the kids on all day shopping sprees in noisy and crowded malls. They'll get tired and cranky. If they do, you know they are feeling the stress too!
Nutrition It's the season of sweets. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are when we indulge. Fast food family meals become more common because of all the extra tasks. Control their sugar intake. Serve healthy meals even if it takes more time.
Time Out Take some time to rest. Turn off the TV with all the commercials specifically intended to get your kid hyped about what he's getting for Christmas. Go for a family walk or bike ride. Take a nap. Build a snowman. Rest.
Tradition Focus on the true meaning of the holidays. Carry on religious rituals and family traditions or create some new ones. Emphasize the Christmas is about giving along with getting. Choose to help a less fortunate family and involve your kids in that process.
Budget Set a limit on spending and stick to it. No child needs everything they want. Many families create unnecessary financial stress lasting for months because of the inability to say NO now. Purchases on credit will keep costing you long after the child becomes bored with that toy.
Communicate Kids from single parent and step families need special attention. It is critical that the adults communicate about schedules, gifts, and holiday activities. It may not be easy to do, especially if hard feelings exist, but conflict between adults creates stress for the kids. Allow kids to express their feelings about disappointments related to the non-custodial parent. Realize that being separated from either parent is hard for children.
My expectations? I'm dreaming of a white Christmas. Just like the ones I used to know. When I was a kid.