How To Have a Relaxing Christmas With Your Children

Our guest blogger, psychotherapist Marcella Carroll, is here with some excellent tips for a relaxing and happy family holiday.

Ho ho ho!

If you think that heading has too many contradictions in it then this blog post is for you! By now Silly Season is well and truly upon us, and if you’re feeling overwhelmed already it’s not too late to press pause and reset. Here are some suggestions for how to do that:

·         Make a list: I know what you’re thinking, not another one, you’re drowning in to-do lists. But I’m suggesting that you make a different sort of list, a short one, just three or four words, that would describe your ideal Christmas. One of Stephen R. Covey’s seven habits of highly effective people is to begin with the end in mind. In January, when you look back over your Christmas, how would you hope to be able to say it went? List these adjectives and use them as your guiding light when you are making decisions about invitations, commitments and purchases. For example, if you are hoping to have a peaceful and restful Christmas you would probably like to engage in different activities to somebody who wants to have an eventful, exciting and thrilling Christmas. Giving this some thought in advance will help prevent you stretching yourself too thin trying to do everything and please everyone. I’ll be referring to this again so I’m going to call it the Christmas List.

·         Simplify and delegate: Realise that you don’t have to do everything yourself. Read that again and really take it in. You don’t have to do and buy everything, and hopefully the Christmas List will help you to say “no” to things that you may regret doing or buying. You don’t have to do everything yourself, so don’t be afraid to delegate or outsource. For example you don’t have to make the cranberry sauce yourself (unless you really want to) – use the shop-bought one and throw in some extra fresh cranberries, and use the time you save doing something that adds to the values on the Christmas List.

·         See Christmas through a child’s eyes: Recently I arrived in a shopping centre and as I walked in I noticed the Christmas decorations had been put up. “That’s nice” I thought and went straight back to looking at my to-do list (not my Christmas List!) Then I looked around for my 2-year-old son – he was standing behind me gazing all around him in wide-eyed wonderment. “Wow, mama”, he said. I looked again and this time I saw what he saw – the thousands of twinkling lights, the bright pretty colours, the dancing polar bears – and it was magical. Since then I have made the effort to see Christmas as he sees it. Watch “Elf” if you need further convincing!

·         Make family games part of your Christmas traditions. Consider asking Santa to bring some games the whole family can play together; perhaps active games such as Twister, or language development games such as Scrabble, Boggle or Pictionary. Don’t forget classic pen-and-paper games such as Tic-tac-toe, Hangman or Dots and Boxes (this one is particularly addictive!)

·         Spend some time really thinking about your family’s use of technology (including your own!) and set some ground rules as a family. Even very young children can be involved in these discussions and decisions. Again, refer back to The Christmas List – is technology adding to or taking away from that list? Avoid recurring arguments about the amount of time spent on technology by having an agreed system in place. One way of doing this is for each person to have a certain amount of credits they can use each day. The advantage of having an amount of “credits” rather than time is that this allows the quality of the activity to be taken into account, for example – an interactive activity such as the SuperHands videos or app would use up less credits than passively watching cartoons, or a group activity in the family living room would use up less than credits than watching something by yourself. Technology has become such a minefield and source of stress in families – has fantastic information and guidelines for parents.

·         Commit to taking 10 minutes a day for yourself. And by “commit” I mean treat it like you would a business meeting – set a time and “agenda” for it, and make sure everybody else knows not to interrupt it. There are 720 minutes in 12 hours so 10 of those should be the minimum you take for yourself (leaving 710 for everybody else!). Perhaps you could do it while the rest of the family are using some of their technology credits! Decide in advance how you are going to spend the time and have everything you need ready for it – will you go for a walk, sit down with a book and a cup of tea, light a candle and use a meditation app such as Headspace or Calm? Enjoy it, you deserve it!

Christmas will come and go, as it always does. Hopefully you will be able to look back on it and feel you can not only tick the words on your Christmas List, but also carry them forward into 2019.



Marcella Carroll is a psychotherapist at Relationship Matters in the Beacon South Quarter, Sandyford. She can be contacted through