How to Keep Kids Calm and Teach Them Patience Before Christmas
Christmas is every child’s favourite time of year. Holidays, fun, visiting friends and family, but best of all is the presents! With so much going on, the build-up to Christmas can lead to impatience and irritability. If you’re a working parent, already overloaded with holiday activities and chores, managing your kids’ feelings could make the difference between a Christmas feast or a fiasco. Here’s how to beat seasonal stress.
Manage the schedule
The holidays pose extra challenges due to added activities and traveling, causing fatigue and sleep disruptions. A spike in sugar consumption doesn’t help either. “There’s a tendency to overbook,” says Susan North, a Californian parent educator and family coach. “Keep a moderate schedule.” Too many activities are stressful for children. “Activities are meant to be fun and not irritating.”
Allowing kids to stay up late, eat unhealthily and overschedule their playtime may seem like the easy way out but will most likely result in crabby kids. “It’s up to parents to create the boundaries,” she says. “Children like to know what’s expected of them.” Being consistent with your standards helps them manage their expectations, develop self-control and patience. A parent playing fast and loose with the rules can at first be exciting for a kid, but ultimately may cause stress.
Build anticipation, not stress
Over the holidays, parents can become engrossed in preparations and shopping. They can also worry about how they will pay for the added expenses. North says parents should shield their children from adult concerns. “It’s difficult to build wonderful anticipation when parents are worrying.” She advises that if you’re a parent who likes to Christmas shop in August, keep this from the kids as well. Building excitement too early makes it harder to manage children’s emotions for weeks on end. She adds, “Keep the time frame compressed. Avoid TV commercials and stimuli that stretch out the holiday.”
Make it your holiday
“Don’t let outside influences hijack your holiday,” cautions North. Parents should resist the powerful commercial forces of Christmas. It can be challenging with the nonstop ads on TV, billboards, in shops and online. If your kids are begging to go to the toy store—where they can become overstimulated and frustrated—include them in a calmer activity. Let them decorate the tree or plan a holiday meal. She emphasizes, “It’s your role as a parent to create the holiday that you envision for them; that is the best gift.”
Give to others
Parents should refrain from bribery! “It’s tempting to bribe children to behave,” says North. However, telling them Santa Claus will leave coal in their stockings if they’re bad only “reinforces the commodifying aspects of Christmas.” Rather than focusing on the “give it to me” part of the season, she suggests exposing kids ages 4 and up to philanthropy. At that age they’re old enough to understand that helping others is a nice thing to do. She suggests giving presents to a needy family or to join a program at their school that provides meals and presents to underserved children. Teaching them to help others introduces them to the true spirit of the season.
It’s up to you as the parent to encourage the positive and joyful aspects of Christmas and minimise the stressful ones. Your consistency and calm behaviour will help manage their expectations and emotions. Resist the commercial pressures and create the Christmas you want for your kids. It will be a more memorable and exciting time for everyone.