As the festive season approaches, diary dates stack up, another “please could you bring/remember/note…” message seems to come through daily, and it’s never long before we feel the festive frazzle.
We’re eternally thankful to all those who work so hard to put smiles on our children’s faces and create wonderful memories. But navigating it without burning out can be a real challenge.
The festive season can come with oodles of pressure from both ourselves and others. We might worry about other parents or our child’s teacher judging us. Time can feel like it’s pressing on us from all sides as we try to create as much magic as possible while our kids are still young. The pressure we pile on ourselves builds as we struggle to uphold family traditions that we’re determined to keep going. Our perfectionist traits can ramp up. We can be our own harshest critics.
It’s rare for others to hold us to anything like the standard we think they do. Often they’re far too focused on their own festive juggle to worry about ours. We don’t have to provide “perfection” for our child, or go to every activity we see advertised. Too many activities will exhaust, us and our children; stopping either of us from enjoying them.
All we can do is our best. Our best is good enough.
Reduce The Festive Load
The festive season can come with a whole lot of admin and a mega-long to-do list.
Take the easy option. There’s no shame in it. It just frees up time to allow us to focus on things that matter to us more.
Cards can be one of the biggest jobs during the festive period. Anyone who’s ever attempted to get a six-year-old to write their name 30 times will know how much of a battle it can be.
There are things we can do to make it easier:
- Send e-cards instead of physical ones.
- Ask 6-year-old to write their name once. Scan it in/take a photo, add it to a computer-made card, and print out as many as is needed.
- If making a computer card isn’t your thing, print a copy of the child-written name as many times as needed, and glue it into each card.
- Agree not to do cards. Some workplaces and/or schools send the money they’d spend on cards to charity instead.
- Shrink the list. Only send cards to your child’s closest friends rather than half the school.
Some of us love present wrapping. It gets us in a festive mood and can be rhythmic and relaxing. Some of us hate it, it takes forever, is fiddly, and we never seem to get it right.
To make it easier:
- Don’t wrap things that go in gift bags. If you want to hide the gift just pop a piece of wrapping paper/tissue paper on top of the gift inside the bag.
- Recyclable/recycled paper is much easier than paper that includes plastic – it doesn’t bounce back.
- Sustainable wraps can be quicker, easier, and less fiddly than traditional wrapping paper (and are much better for the environment). They include things like bags, boxes, and fabric wraps.
- If buying gifts for school staff is the ‘done thing’ at your child’s school, don’t feel you have to join in. A simple “thank you” can go a long way.
- If you do want to get something for school staff, staffroom snacks are often hugely appreciated – they can go straight in a gift bag, bypassing wrapping altogether.
- Some shops offer gift-wrapping. Take them up on it.
- Are some of our kids old enough to wrap things? Ask them to help out. It’s quite fun to wrap things together sometimes.
Shop-bought Is Fine
Over the festive period, we’re often asked to provide food items. Whether it’s the school festive lunch, the youth group get-together, or another event, the requests quickly stack up.
There’s no requirement to make things from scratch. Shop bought is absolutely fine. If we want to, we could pop them on a nice plate, but there isn’t really any need.
At a time when there’s so much excitement is in the air, and usual school days become higgledy piggledy, routine can be particularly important.
Try to keep morning and evening routines the same. It can be grounding for both our child and us, help us to feel in control, and help us to manage our sleep/wake cycle. Balance out the “festive and exciting” with some “typical and expected”.
Festive Activities Wall Planner
Tired of answering the same questions about when different events are happening and what’s needed for each one? Stick it on the wall.
Print or draw a wall planner for December. Cross off each day as you go. Even young children can understand this if we use stickers or pictures in the place of, or as well as, words. Crossing off days can act as an event count-down, too. It also helps us to take collective responsibility as a household, rather than everything landing on one person.
Whether it’s a snazzy jumper or a costume for a play, there can be a few different outfits required over the festive period… and they’ll often only be worn once or twice because children grow each year.
Rather than shelling out lots of money on something that will be barely worn, ask around. Lots of people have different-sized festive jumpers hiding in the back of cupboards.
If our child has a part in a school show, ask whether someone had the same part the year before. They might still have the costume and be happy to let us borrow it. Costumes for children’s school shows don’t have to be West End-worthy. A tea towel secured with a headband, or an old bedsheet with a head hole, are both more than acceptable.
Let Some Things Slide
During busy periods, we can let things slide that we’d otherwise be on top of. We might need to let our child watch a little bit more TV than usual. Perhaps we need to drop our standards when it comes to cleaning. Let the less-important things slide. We can pick them up once the festive frazzle is over.
Getting It Wrong
The guilt we feel when we get it wrong can be immense. If we forget the day of the school disco and send our child to school without their non-uniform clothes, it can eat us up inside (whether we manage to rectify the situation or not).
With everything being so busy, it’s super-easy to drop the ball here or there. We’re only human! There’s absolutely no shame in making mistakes; apologise to whoever it affects and move on. Worrying about it helps nobody.
Balance It Out
Excitement is good fun, but exhausting. With the busy buzz of the festive period, our child is likely to be more tired than usual. Build in downtime. Let them chill after a school day instead of running to different activities. Bring their bedtime forward. Have quieter weekends. It’s so important to factor in that downtime because otherwise our child will find it much harder to cope with everything and can then start to get upset more easily which makes things difficult for both them and us.
Encourage your child to listen to their body, even if that means missing out on some things. Listen to them when they assert their needs (otherwise, they’ll learn to ignore the signals their body gives them). We also need to listen to our own body, and take care of it accordingly; kids often learn by modelling us.
Have a conversation with your youngster about the various events and activities coming up, and which they might like to prioritise. Although kids might not understand the word “prioritise”, they might understand “definitely want to go”, “want to go if I’m not too tired” and “I’m not bothered if I go or not”.
Pop these three lists next to your wall planner – or colour code the activities you write on your planner.
As the festive season progresses, our energy levels will go up and down. We’ll have to make lots of decisions (with our child) about whether or not to attend things based on how we feel that day. Having these lists to refer to can make that much easier.
Houses and schools are busy places during the festive period, with lots of people coming and going, different sounds coming from every angle, flashing lights, changes in the pattern of each day, and food that’s different to “normal”. It can get too much sometimes.
We all find different things challenging, and for some children, the festive period can be extremely difficult. Try to make sure there’s somewhere they can escape to when a break is needed. This could be a quiet room or, if we don’t have a quiet room, it might mean using things like noise-cancelling headphones, a weighted blanket, and comfort items.
If our child finds festive school overwhelming, speak to their class teacher. There might be somewhere they can go to for a bit of peace during the school day.
Feeling Like We Can’t Cope
Emotions can run high over the festive period, making everything that bit harder. Sometimes we’ll be frustrated with ourselves for feeling like we can’t cope when everyone around us seems to be coping just fine.
Nobody is perfect, and others might be shouting at the cellotape when they lose the end, too. It’s just that it happens behind closed doors.
Reach out for support. Life is often stressful enough during non-festive times. Don’t struggle alone – we’re not the only ones to feel this way and sometimes chatting to a loved one about how we feel can give them permission to talk about it, too.
Please help us to help others and share this post, you never know who might need it.