Monday, 11 December 2017

Getting Ready for Christmas

The school holidays obviously don’t affect us greatly, other than making places we like to visit much busier, and putting a hold on our term time groups. Usually the girls have clubs 3 evenings a week, so as we approach Christmas we get to cosy up on the settee instead, with blankets and Christmas films.

The holiday season itself can be so overwhelming for children and parents alike. Sensory overload, lots of family and friends to see, so much sugar and so many presents! So here are a few things that we do to prepare for the onslaught ahead:

Clear Out
With October and November birthdays here, swiftly followed by Christmas, the number of new toys, books, games and craft sets coming into the house sky rockets.
In the weeks running up to Christmas we try to do a clear out of things we don’t play with any more to make space for all the new gifts. It’s always a tricky activity, because the girls are so attached to everything. But I’m hoping that as the years go on it will become an easier habit to adopt. It helps to remind them that some children don’t get much for Christmas and that we can pass good quality toys and clothes on to Father Christmas to help make other children happy.

Calm Down
There is so much going on at Christmas. Flashing lights, jingly music, rich food, shiny wrapping paper. Everyone gets overexcited, hyperactive, and tired, leading very quickly to grumpiness, arguments and tears. I try to give the girls an opportunity during each day to do Cosmic Yoga and Mindfulness. I’m hoping that this will give them the tools they need to centre themselves and calm themselves down when things are getting overwhelming. Getting outside in the fresh air helps too. The crisp winter air blows away the arguments and Mother Nature has a marvellous way of calming even the angriest of children. With fewer people in open spaces at this time of year, going for wintry walks allows us some moments of peace and quiet, and solitude - the perfect antidote to the overwhelm of the holiday season.

Craft activities give us some quiet time too. We like to make Advent a big part of our Christmas celebrations. Every year we use a Jesse Tree to help us understand the biblical events that led up to Jesus’s birth. As a part of this we try do a related craft most days. When I first started doing this with B, I did one every day and it became a chore rather than a fun activity, so we’re much looser with it now. But as the girls are getting older they are better at working independently, so I can set them off and then keep A occupied. We don’t put up our Christmas Tree until much closer to Christmas, so our crafting activities double up as Christmas decorations, meaning that we can build up slowly to a fully decorated house.

Care for Others
I find that the most effective way to survive the holidays in our house is to remember the reason for the season. By following our Jesse Tree stories, we are able to put Jesus front and centre of our Christmas celebrations. This helps to remind the children that it’s not all about the flashing lights, jingly music and masses of presents, but about celebrating the birth of Jesus. This also gives us opportunities to think about other people and to inspire an attitude of thankfulness. We try to talk about the biggest and best gift was Jesus, and so everything else is a bonus. We also use it as a time to provide for those less well off than us. We do a Reverse Advent Calendar, which involves filling a box with food for the Foodbank and gifts for Charities to give to others. Our church has a Giving Tree and the girls love selecting a few gift tags each for us to attach to presents that the Saint Vincent de Paul group pass on to those who need them most. I think it is so important that our children grow up seeing that for some people the most important and necessary gifts are what we could consider basics - underwear, tea bags, baby vests, a packet of biscuits, warm gloves. It enables us to be much more grateful for the fun, but frivolous, presents we find under the tree. And that in turn makes the holiday season a much happier place with less sulking and fewer arguments.

How do you prepare to survive the holidays? Please leave your comments below. I love to read them and try to reply to every one.

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