This blog was originally posted last year, but we really like it so here’s the new edition!
Christmas is a time of celebration, a time for family, a time for gift giving, wonderful food and general excess for at least a month nowadays. All of these things can be challenging on their own, but layer on the societal expectation that this will be a truly magical time and you have the potential for a vast amount of stress, conflict over traditions, visiting people, staying with family members whose lives and opinions on everything from when to open the presents to how you parent your children may not align perfectly with your own!
Spending time with extended family during this ‘magical’ period can be the most wonderful opportunity to get together with family who you may not manage to see very often.
It can also mean travelling between ‘your’ family and your ‘in laws’, which can mean LONG journeys with overexcited and exhausted children to make sure you spend time with both sets of grandparents to be “fair” to everyone. If this doesn’t work for you and your family because it is just too much with babies or small children, or because it is exhausting then say so. Maybe try it once. If it was incredibly stressful for you and your family look into something else.
- Talk to your extended family. Hopefully you love each other and want the best for each other and approaching the situation as adults, and not as their little children gives you a chance to negotiate. And remember, you can always say no to any suggestions you aren’t comfortable with. It is important to have discussed this with any partner too, so you know what is important to each other and that you are both on the same page.
- Christmas in November/January – try moving Christmas and doing it at a different time with one side of the family. Kids may think this is awesome if they get to do Christmas twice.
- Invite people to you – This may be easier if they live locally, if you have space for people to sleep, or you have other family locally who can put people up. Being on home turf can make you and the children feel more at ease, and can make it easier to do what you want in your own home when it comes to issues of traditions and parenting questions.
- Make space and time for you and your kids. If the big day is packed with activities from dawn to well past dusk, is that realistic for you and your kids? Would you be better off grabbing some wellies or a sling and running off some energy in the afternoon, maybe coming back with sleeping children to put down for a well needed nap? If so, speak up. Opt out of the Queen’s speech, charades, spin the bottle, whatever. Advocate for yourself and your children and do what you need to do. Maybe if you suggest it everyone will join in…ok, you can just sneak out the back door if that option doesn’t thrill you!
So many people go into debt over Christmas and spend the New Year terrified of how they are going to pay it all off.
There are lots of ways to avoid overspending on blogs such as Money Saving Expert’s 44 Xmas Money Saving Tips
Make a positive of living within your means
- Buying less stuff saves the planet.
- Make “no gift” pacts or set a gift budget with people you will exchange gifts with.
- Ask for secondhand gifts such as books, to help charity and reduce waste
- Buy whole family presents, whether a game for your sister’s family and their kids to play together, or a movie night hamper of a film and snacks.
- Exchange gifts in the New Year – if you really want to get older people who understand these things gifts then agree to exchange in January when you get more for your money in the sales.
Feel like you need to give gifts to everyone, but don’t know what to give?
- Ask what they would like or need – simple right? But getting something wanted, or contributing towards it may be more meaningful than generic stocking fillers.
- Give gifts of experiences – whether it is wine-tasting, a baby massage course, or rally driving, get together with other people if needs be and give the gift of a memory, rather than an object.
- Give time – cook a meal, offer to child sit, teach a skill, invite someone around for a cuppa. A gift that makes a meaningful connection.
- Got a crafty skill? Make a gift, or, even better, get your kids to. How can anyone ever be disappointed with footprints turned into reindeer adorning any number of items?!
- Is your house instaworthy?
- Is your tree instaworthy?
- Do your kids have the right joyful, entranced and grateful expressions as they open their gifts?
- Are you living more for what strangers think of your life than enjoying the moment?
- Social media can be a great way to share our joy AND our struggles, to seek support and to feel that we are not alone. But if social media is causing you stress, ditch it, or rejig it, cut some of the aspirational accounts that make you feel inferior, they probably don’t mean to, but your family wants you to be present in your life, not striving to live someone else’s!
Cooking Christmas Dinner
- Plan ahead – this really helps. Write down what temperature everything needs to cook at and for how long and work it back so you can see what time everything needs to go in. Try this Christmas Dinner Planner Tool
- Prep ahead – vegetable prep whilst watching Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas is my fondest memory of Christmas Eve as a child. Stuffing balls can be made up and frozen before cooking, so they need to defrost (remember to calculate that time) and go in the oven.
- Feed and entertain the kids – put someone else, ideally, in charge of keeping the kids from getting so hungry they are gnawing through the Christmas tree before dinner is ready.
- Avoid incessant “is it ready yet?” questions by setting up games to play, treasure hunts to complete, make their stocking fillers books, games or toys that are likely to entertain them for a couple of hours.
- Buy ready made if it works on your budget, or ask family members to take responsibility for some trimming each. BBC Good Food have advice on How to make Christmas Dinner Cooking a family affair.
- Make things easier – only cooking for 2 adults and 2 kids- do you really NEED a turkey? Would a chicken be cheaper and easier?
- DON’T cook Christmas dinner – just because everyone else is eating turkey and sprouts, doesn’t mean you can’t have curry, or tacos, or beef, or lasagne! You might be able to have an amazing meal containing elements of everyone’s favourite things. Have your toddler’s favourite- garlic bread with your favourite – curry, maybe keep the pigs in blankets, but make up your own Christmas dinner!
- Parties are about having fun and celebrating together, so if you’re going to parties do it because you WANT to.
- What to wear?! Clothes are the most appropriate thing usually, but you can decorate an existing jumper to make it a Christmas jumper, you can wear the same dress as last year, most people aren’t going to cross check.
- “I hate my body!” is an often present internal narrative. Please try not to. Your body is awesome, it is the living shell that hosts the wonderful person that is you, it has grown life, or worked to support life, it is so much more than its shape and size, it is strength and potential and deserves to be loved, treated with respect and kindness. Affirmations and focusing on what your body can do can really help change this mindset. (We know, we have been there/are right there with you. x)
We hope that you have a lovely restful time celebrating the way you feel works best for you and your family, with as little stress as possible!