How to reduce Christmas stress

22 November 2017

Dear friend,

Our rose tinted memories of wonderful Christmases past, often lead to unrealistic expectations. We get caught up in the need for a perfect tree, perfect dinner, perfect presents etc all contributing to an overwhelming feeling of stress. Christmas takes a lot of work. 

Just mention the word Christmas in October and you can will see some people visibly wince. According to the Stress Management Society, one in 20 people considers Christmas more stressful than a burglary, and over half of Britons will have had an alcoholic drink before lunch on Christmas day – to try to cope with the stress.

There are many demands on your time but remember that it is your holiday too. It is completely reasonable that parents want to relax and enjoy being in the moment with their family. After all isn't that what Christmas is all about?

Talk: Make sure that you have conversations with your family and friends about everyone’s expectations of Christmas well in advance. That way you can make compromises that suit everyone. Don't be frightened to say; NO!

Planning: Be careful not to plan too much!
Advent calendars can help kids with the lead up to Christmas and we also use a month calendar with key events noted so that we can cross off the days.

Parties: Christmas parties and extended time with family and friends is special and should be treasured but some children may need support.
Encourage children to socialise initially but have a survival kit to take with you. (This could include a book, music, computer game/ipad, drawing pad and pens) Give your child a timescale e.g. We will leave at 8, but be prepared to leave earlier if necessary.

Decorations: Don’t go overboard on decorations: keep them out of kids bedrooms entirely.
If you are away for Christmas (hello my EXPAT readers) then why not focus on one area of your home or on one thing e.g. the tree.

No Bribery: Remember some kids take things very literally: Autistic parents do not have the advantage of 'neurotypical' parents who can use an element of blackmail to ensure their kids are good before Christmas. The big lad had a lot of stress around being good (as in his eyes he hadn't been good enough) and this lead to several sleepless nights. Many 'neurotypical' kids also find this pressure too much.

Routine: Stick to your normal routine as much as possible. Try to build in some quiet time before bed. But be prepared that kids may not be able to sleep on Christmas Eve, relax the rules a little and let them stay up a bit later.

Shopping: Set a budget and stick to it! Take a list and check off as you go along.
If you hate the Christmas rush then the kids will, leave them at home with a friend/relative.

Gift giving: The anticipation of a day when you get lots of new stuff can be totally overwhelming. Some children find it too stressful having presents under the tree and some children find too many presents overwhelming. Writing letters or making wish lists helps. You can also stagger your present opening. Set up some gifts so that they are ready to play with.

Food: A traditional Christmas dinner is a lot of work and many people are choosing to eat out or eat on Christmas Eve instead so Christmas day is free to relax. Why not share the work by asking guests to bring a dish?

Exercise: Get out of the house. Exercise reduces stress and keeps family strife to a minimum.

Relatives: We all have those annoying relatives who were obviously perfect parents. Nod and smile sweetly, or better still change the subject when they start to give you advice. Say, Can you excuse me for a minute, walk away and don't look back...


Have a stress free Christmas!

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