Updated: Feb 25
Some peoples experiences of Christmas can be very different, especially between the southern and northern hemispheres.
But lets put weather issues aside and I will share with you what I have learnt from my experiences on both sides of the planet. The important things are not that different, so here are my suggestions on what to focus on.
S = Self care
Look after yourself at this time of year, you do not need to do everything on your own. Make time in the day for a break and focus on topping up your energy.
This is not always that easy when there are 101 things you feel you need to do and too many other people you need to keep happy. The reality is that your children may not be old enough to have the awareness to see when you need a break, so don't feel guilty for asking for one. If your energy is low, your attention will be split, children can pick up on this and can get confused, and end up pushing harder for more attention. It is almost impossible to hide tiredness, so admit it and recuperate. Children can be more sympathetic than you think.
L = Love languages
Just put the words into Google and have a go at one of the many tests. Once you work out your own then try and identify those held by the other members of your family.
I learnt about love languages a few years ago and it really helped me to understand and value the different ways my family members like to show they care. There are those who love to receive gifts, need physical touch to feel connected, prefer your time, or words of recognition, then there are those who disappear to do something helpful.
If you are a person who likes to give and receive hugs to feel connected, you may feel ignored by those who like to show they care by going off and carrying out chores. My family includes a person who like to give and receive gifts, an acts of service person and a quality time person, where as I myself like to hear directly how people feel. Being able to recognise these differences has helped me to show them I care by changing what I am doing to fit their language.
Acts of service - redecorating the family area
Gifts - working with them to create Christmas biscuits for other people
Quality time - supporting them to visit the beach with friends and make memories together
E = Eat together
Such a simple statement and understandably not always practical everyday; however, I can not advocate enough for this to happen as often as it can. Putting those phones down and spending time in each others company really pays off. The passing on of messages, thoughts and general conversation helps keep you all connected. There may be some tension in the room if the kids have been fighting again, but what great practice for the future! How often do we as adults have to sit with discomfort, through board meetings, or in cafes with extra loud patrons?
I = Invent
Your family is unique, work together to come up with some great ways to make this time more memorable.
When we first came to New Zealand we needed new traditions and ways to make this time of year memorable. The old games of charades and cards while it was dark and you crowed round the fire, no longer worked as well. People were much more likely to come round for BBQs and play back yard cricket.
Now we have Christmas parades and arty trees to go see if we want to. There are still those who put up their tree lights even though it doesn't get dark till late, so going to see them is a special treat and night time adventure. The idea of visiting K mart at midnight is an odd one, but I expect your teenagers will think this is way cooler than shopping there during the day!
You don't need to do big things, one of the most effective memory making ideas we had was making a Christmas decoration. Each year we use a photo of our two girls, nothing staged, we just trawl through the years activities and try and find one where they are close enough together to make it look like they like each other, send it to one of these online picture places, and wait for it to arrive. It is scary how quickly they have amassed and they are a great talking point each year as we select the new photo and try and work out the order of the ones we already have.
Now the kids are older they are organising us, reminding us that its time to go our sight seeing tour, or that we should be delivering our homemade Christmas pudding to friends.
G = Grin
People have so many expectations of this time of year that it is easy to be disappointed, or get frustrated and angry. If you can, I suggest you grin and bear it. Own the room as they say. You can choose to be brought down by others or rise above them.
When my eldest got moody because we had dared to purchase a gift she has not expressively asked for I had a choice. Get angry with her because she was coming over as ungrateful, or wind her up even more, making the point that her reaction was a little over the top. Laughing something off can help lighten the mood, we all have to learn how to deal with disappointment, imagined or feared.
When you walk into a room you have more power than you may realise. If when you walk in you choose to see all the chores which have not been done, or reflect the inner tensions of your day on your face, the temperature is likely to drop a few degrees. If you walk in an see the people, and let them know, through a grin, that you are happy to see them, then you may find them returning the favour making you feel a little happier too. If you are really lucky you may get to hear why the chores have not been done and their plan to get onto them later!
H = Help
Ask for help, at this time of year when IT can become even more attractive to your bored children, they are often looking for something else to do, but just don't know what. If you are making that cake, then ask them to help you mix and measure. If the house needs to be a little tidier then ask them to choose from the list of things to do, this provides them with a little choice, hopefully enough to get them to join in, however reluctantly.
I believe that Christmas should be about giving, probably more than about receiving and that's the reason I have written this blog. I may not know you, I may never know you, but my aim is to try and help you, even if it is only to give you a 5 min break from all the other stuff happening in your life right now.