Although this time of year is known for being a special time for families, it can also be challenging, as a parent. Being around extended family often brings with it an unseen pressure of feeling as though your parenting is on display. Attempting to keep up appearances of being good parents with superbly behaved children can be hard. What’s more, seeing pictures of happy families dressed in matching outfits sprawled all over social media doesn’t help.

Furthermore, while Christmas can be a magical time for kids, it can be tough for them too. This is often what leads to challenging changes in behavior. After all, they’re often dealing with:

  • Unusual routines
  • Watching more TV and getting less exercise
  • Eating more sugar and less ‘real’ food
  • Extra excitement brought on by visitors and visiting, but also less attention from parents
  • Even more excitement brought on by presents and visits from Santa, but also possible disappointment and jealousy

8 Parenting Tips to Handle the Christmas Madness

To overcome the challenges mentioned above – for both parents and kids, we at Mind and Body Counseling Associates, Reno, Nevada, have put together the following tips:

1. Host a Pre-Christmas Family Meeting

Get the family together to chat about expectations and anxieties before the holidays begin. Explain the possible challenges that might occur to your kids and consider reinforcing, but also renegotiating, some fundamental rules.

2. Do Your Best to Maintain Normal Routine

For example, if your children are used to spending time outside during school, try to maintain this during the holidays. Furthermore, in order to avoid the consequential tiredness and grumpiness that results from lack of sleep, don’t let set bedtimes change too much.

3. Reduce Expectations

Rather than allowing yourself to slip into a daydream of the perfect Christmas, force yourself to expect at least some bad behaviour. Then, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when your kids do behave well. Also, be realistic about what sort of gifts you can afford to give your kids and don’t try to please everyone.

4. Make Time to Rest

While you may want to schedule as many trips, activities, and visits during your time off as possible, it’s important to allow time for some R&R as well – for both you and your children. Read a book, play board games, have an afternoon nap. That’s what holidays are for.

5. Have Fun!

Don’t get too caught up in teaching and disciplining your kids that you forget to have fun! As we know, children have playful spirits and love when their parents spend time playing with them. Revive your spirit by playing with your children this holiday.

6. Teach the Joy of Giving

According to Susan Newman, PhD, a social psychology professor at Rutgers University, “Children will model your behavior. If you bake for the homeless shelter (and they help) or if you visit people in the hospital, they will remember that.” Another great idea is to get your kids to write up ‘give lists’ along with their wish lists, i.e.: is there something Grandma would like this year? What can s/he make for daddy?

7. Create New Traditions

Here are some ideas:

  • Go to the Nutcracker, a lighting ceremony, or just drive around to see house lighting.
  • Build a snowman.
  • Go to a church / synagogue.
  • Let kids choose holiday music and then dance with them.
  • Put kids in charge of videotaping / picture taking – let them interview everyone.

8. Navigate Divorce

If you’re dealing with the after-math of divorce this Christmas, it may be the best time to create new traditions (see previous tip). Marilyn Colemen, PhD, professor of human development and family studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia suggests divorced parents create a separate holiday just for the family, one that is neither Christmas or Hanukkah, so kids own’t feel guilty for spending time with one parent and not the other. Ensure you finalize the visiting schedule beforehand and speak positively about your ex-spouse to your kids.