I have had a rather hectic but productive weekend. We have decorated the house, written Christmas cards and started our letter to Father Christmas. We have also chosen and decorated the Christmas tree. This is a favourite job for me, watching my son excitedly running up to every tree and saying ‘what about this one’, ‘what about this one’! First he wanted a tiny 2 foot tree, so we explained that I wanted a bigger one for the living room. So, as he had been told I wanted a big tree, he found one, all 9 foot of it! After explaining that it wouldn’t fit in the house we settled on a more sensible sized one. So after the very nice man let Jack ‘help’ push our chosen tree through the Christmas tree wrapper (another very exciting thing!), Jack and Daddy carried the tree out. Then it was home to a happy yet confused dog. I’m sure he thinks we have gone mad when we bring a tree home – luckily he doesn’t feel the need to christen it!
I’m lucky; Jack is older now and remembers Christmas and all the family traditions. He knows our routines and can talk about how the house is going to change and where we put decorations. He can even make his predictions for when it’s going to snow (before school on Monday morning he hopes!). I’m also a firm believer in including him in planning and making sure he knows what is happening when. He’s not great with surprises and I really find this helps! But for younger children, or children who find change hard, Christmas must seem like a very strange time indeed. However it is also an amazing opportunity to try new things and extend on last year’s experiences.
Last week Helen spoke about advent calendars and how to incorporate language. You can read that post here. Christmas is a fantastic time to support language development and introduce your child to new things, but there also some things you can do to make this time easier.
- Many (if not most) children find the countdown to Christmas hard. They are excited and know it’s coming, but as you see Christmas things in the shops from November it must feel like it takes ages for Christmas to come! Advent calendars are a great way to count down, but if your child needs a little more, try using a calendar where you can write on key events (or put pictures on!) and cross off each day. For example, put on when the Christmas tree is going up, when you are visiting family, which day they can open presents etc. This way you can talk about it and prepare them and hopefully easy any confusion or concern.
- Presents – If it’s too tempting to leave presents under the tree, don’t put them out until Christmas Eve! Also make sure everything has the correct batteries etc. I often open toys and take them out of the packaging as they have so many ties and screws and bits of plastic on them nowadays. I also read somewhere that if the paper and hidden present is too much, try using see through cellophane so they can see what’s inside but still get to unwrap it or put a picture of the gift on the outside so they can see.
- Really involve your child in the decorations and planning for Christmas. If they love lights use them, maybe put them high up on the ceiling so they are visible but not touchable. If they don’t like certain decorations don’t use them. Let them pick where things are going to go in the house.
- We always encourage our son to try new foods as he wouldn’t if we didn’t push him a little! You know your child best, if Christmas is stressful, don’t push them to eat turkey if they don’t like it. Stick to safe food you know they like. However, it is also a great opportunity to try something new and different.
- It’s also a great time to practise those social skills – you might want to practise in advance how to say thank you for gifts and talk about saying thank you even if it’s not a gift you really wanted! Discuss the words they are going to use, Thank you is nice and easy. If your child is older you can talk about how it would make the person giving the present feel if you don’t say thank you or if you said you don’t like it.
- You can try and involve your child in choosing presents for other people and talking about what other people like. It’s easy to get very focused on the children and what they want. With younger children you could show them 2 or 3 pictures of what you think the other person may like and encourage them to choose by pointing. With older children you could talk about what the other person might like, and reinforce the fact that not everybody likes the same things.
I do hope everyone has a relatively stress free Christmas. Do you have any tips for surviving Christmas?