I've found parenting difficult lately, and by that I mean even more difficult than usual (I mean it's never the easiest role in the world, is it?). The kids have been so wound up, whilst simultaneously I've had less patience and time for them. Something needed to change.
After a weekend away with four over active kids, I returned home feeling frazzled. I sat talking to Dave about it trying to work out why the kids were no longer listening to me, why they had been extra noisy and boisterous (meaning more cuts, accidents and fall outs than I could deal with when we've only just had Caitlyn recover from a broken arm), I was feeling like this must be my fault and I'd failed somehow as a parent.
I couldn't even relay to Dave everything that they'd got up to that made me feel this way but at the time it seemed like there was "an incident" every second, such as chairs being swung and falling over, fingers being jammed in doors, shouting at each other and once the excitement had worn off constant moaning and grizzling.
I feel guilty for bringing up the bad parts of family life as I know I'm so lucky to have these four children and everyday I do count my blessings, it's just that I'd prefer to count them without the pounding headache that days like this bring so we can all enjoy our time together happily and (dare I say it?) more peacefully.
So this is Christmas
Whilst talking it through the realisation hit me that this happens every.single.year. It's Christmas. And Christmas has come early this year- from the supermarket tree being put up on Halloween evening (yes, really) to Christmas lights being turned on from the beginning of November. The huge build up of excitement is already within them.
In addition to the stimulation from Christmas adverts and decorations, they've also started rehearsing the school Christmas plays and carols and making Christmas crafts for competitions both in school, at home and Brownies. That's all great stuff, as it is a lovely time of year. I feel excited too (but with the added grown up worries -insert *sarcastic* yay!). When I was younger this excitement would start on December 1st with the opening of our Advent Calendars and the decorations going up; but during my kids' era there seems to be this limbo period in November where half the neighbourhood has started Christmas already and literally got it all wrapped up whilst the rest of us still have our fingers in our ears trying to drown out the Christmas tunes.
How to Keep the Kids Calm and Happy in the Build Up to Christmas
Realising there was a possible reason for the increase in the problem behaviour gave me some relief. I know I am still partly to blame by being sorely lacking in patience and time for them but I know I can make changes and hopefully (*crosses fingers*) see some improvement in the next few weeks.
I'm going to:
- Try and keep to the usual routine as much as possible.
- Where there are changes to the routine (such as school plays and evening events taking place in the run up to Christmas) we will display them on a visual Christmas wall chart so the kids feel secure with this new routine.
- Keep the kids active- as the nights are drawing in so quickly I've found we have many evenings where our routine is school, shop, tea, bath, bed! I need to make the most of the golden hour after school and get out in the garden, the park and the beach- whilst wrapped up warm, of course!).
- Build in lots of calming time- increase our reading together and cuddle up to watch family films.
- Cut down on the sweet treats. At this time of year, in addition to the adrenaline rush, the kids are so often given a sugar rush too. While I won't deny these, I will limit them and talk to the kids about how we can eat them sensibly- saving that pack of sweets and having it after tea as a dessert instead of in addition to. This will also benefit their teeth. The occasional treat is fine but two months of extra sugar treats is going overboard. I'll also make sure their meals are as homemade and nutritious as possible and try not to increase the junk food quick teas that I tend to slip in when we get busy!
- Stick to the sleep routine where possible. There will be some nights when we do get home later and the kids will have to go straight to bed late. But where possible we will put them to bed at the usual time. I have to admit that during these cold, dark nights I feel more tired and want to go to bed earlier myself- not that it ever happens.
- Keep my cool. Remember to expect the consequences that come with the over excitement and be calm and ready to deal with them.
- Be patient and give them my time. As I mentioned earlier, I have been less patient this month and the kids do notice this and then "act out" to get my attention, which they certainly get, but not the positive attention that they crave. I need to organise my time better (I'm trying to stop saying, "I don't have enough time!" as we all have the same amount of hours in a day, it's what we do with them that count). From the time I pick them up from school to put them to bed I want to give them my focused attention. For this to happen I need to close down my laptop and also prep tea as much as possible earlier on during the day.
Hopefully these strategies will help. I want to keep the magic and excitement of Christmas alive but keep the good, polite behaviour and avoid the inevitable "crash" that occurs after such a high.
Are your kids already excited about Christmas? How do you keep them (reasonably) calm during the festive season?