Want a less stressful Christmas? Get the kids to help.
For many parents, this busy time of year is full of to-do lists, shopping trips and present wrapping. It can also be a time of anxiety and stress as the juggle gets too much.
Renee Mill is a clinical psychologist who specialises in parenting and anxiety at Sydney’s Anxiety Solutions CBT and the author of Parenting Without Anger and Anxiety Free, Drug-Free.
“Christmas is a time for families to come together and so it makes sense to get the kids involved from the outset,” clinical psychologist, Renee Mill says.
“It teaches them important lessons and encourages autonomy.”
Sounds great. But how do you do it? Renee says it takes a little planning, but encouraging kids to get involved is worth it.
Children respond to collaboration, not rules or instruction. If you sit around a table and brainstorm together, the kids will get more buy-in and feel like they are part of the plan. That makes them more likely to help.
Ask for ideas, write them down and don’t snigger at any idea no matter how silly it might seem – otherwise that child will never contribute again.
When all ideas are given, go through them together asking, “Will this idea work?” and everyone can give reasons why it will or won’t work.
Respect is key for every input. Be positive and grateful; “Thank you for this suggestion. I love the way you wanted to put live fireworks on the tree. It sure would bring excitement. However, it won’t be safe, so we can’t use your idea.”
Have an excited energy. Get into kid mode. Don’t be serious or strict. Make it a fun game. Be zany and playful. Give it time, you may need several meetings.
Christmas crafts are a great family activity. Be sure each child gets to express themselves. If a child dislikes cutting don’t make them cut. Let them do the thing they enjoy even if it doesn’t seem too helpful (hello spreading glitter). If they enjoy themselves, they will want to do it next year too.
Make the area child-friendly with a ground sheet on the floor and try not to worry about the mess. The focus is on creativity and fun and exhibiting your child’s art which will probably not be a perfect decoration. When guests come, point out your child’s creation. Give the children credit for their work and input.
For awesome Christmas craft activities and how to’s, check out: Pilot Pens website – they have loads of easy craft activities for kids (and adults)
Meal planning and shopping
Give each family member the opportunity to share their menu suggestions. You can alternate, for example, this year Josh gets to choose the dessert, next year will be Sienna’s chance to choose. Or Josh can choose the meat course and Sienna can choose dessert.
When shopping, give each child a job – even the youngest child can run along collecting items from the list and putting them in the trolley.
Cooking and prep
Children love offering help in the kitchen and Christmas offers a great opportunity to be involved in preparing a special family meal.
Children can beat eggs, put raisins in a salad, count apples and put them on the table.
As the season of goodwill, Christmas is the perfect time to talk about helping others. Start a charity box at home with a donation of food from each shopping trip, volunteer, wrap gifts for disadvantaged children, give a donation at the supermarket etc. It is good for children to carry on this theme of caring for others throughout the year.
The holiday season is an opportunity for family bonding, quality time and creativity. It offers the chance to validate a child’s ideas and ways of doing things. It is time to teach values and to act on them and is a springboard to continue these important lessons and build them into your child’s life all year round.