The festive season is exciting for the whole family, with the anticipation of goodies, gifts and some valuable time off - from work and school. Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays around the world, and even in India, households across the country participate in the celebrations with christmas cheer.
Whether Christmas is a religious festival for you or not, it’s sure to be an occasion that is enthusiastically celebrated, no matter where in the world you are. For those of other faiths, most of their Christmas traditions and activities are learned and borrowed from pop culture - books, movies, music and recently, social media… and while all this surely is fun, we can move past the marketing gimmicks and find deeper meaning in celebrating this festival - creating new traditions for our families and teaching our children important values.
Although the festive season means children are off school, for us parents - who are still shuffling between work, home and other commitments, it can all get a little overwhelming. While the holidays are meant for spending time together and revelling in the festivities of Christmas and new years, parents can face pressures and expectations like having to keep their children occupied and entertained, making time for family gatherings, making sure they’re on top of their work and the dreaded but probably the most important - making time for self care!
Here are 7 effective ways to up your parenting game this festive season and make sure you not only reconnect with your children, but also with yourself!
Prioritize presence over presents!
If there is anything Christmas is synonymous with, its presents! The perfect picture of Christmas morning is waking up to beautifully wrapped presents, sitting under the Christmas tree. For kids, who are eager to know what you’ve got for them, the first thing they want to do is open up these presents!
But what comes after? In the present day, most likely, we’d all get glued to our devices soon after… kids showing off their new toys and parents showing off their happy children.... The Christmas morning that began on a high note of family time has suddenly simmered down into any other regular morning…. The whole family busy on their own devices.
There can be a lot of pressure on parents to give their children the perfect gift in balance with ‘good parenting’. Constantly exposed to targeted marketing, children can also develop high expectations of presents. Although gift-giving is an important part of any personal relationship, when it comes to our children we need to remember that they benefit more from our presence, rather than our presents!
When our children throw tantrums or act "spoiled" or "entitled" about the things they desire or the disappointment they feel, remember that what they actually want is this most precious of gifts: time with you and your loving attention. Over the holidays, try loading up on Special Time to reintroduce friendlier behaviour.
You can make sure your kids have your presence, and remind them how much you love them by spending some valuable Special Time with them.
Special Time is a magical Hand in Hand Parenting tool, where you dedicate a fixed amount of time to your child (only one child at a time) and engage in whatever activity it is they want to do. In Special Time, your child has your whole and sole attention, nothing else matters except the two of you!
Read more about Special time here - https://www.triyoke.org/post/special-time-is-the-best-thing-ever
Establish a New Family Tradition
Traditions are important in any family - it is a way of tying generations together and spending quality time together. It is important to remember that even though traditions by definition are ritualistic, we must be able to adapt them - allow them to evolve and mould them to fit the current generation.
An anecdote from Megha’s therapy room -
Veena, a new mother, had a long standing Christmas tradition that was very special to her. Veena would meticulously decorate her christmas tree with bits and decorations that she had collected through her travels and experiences. The ever perfect hostess, she put a lot of effort and heart into her Christmas gatherings, the star of which was her immaculate tree.
Since she has become a mom, Christmas has been looking slightly different for her. Let’s just say her son likes to decorate a little differently…. A little less meticulously! Veena struggled initially to accept that her tradition was going to have to retire, at least for a few years… but through her work with Megha she realized that the tradition need not retire, it must simply evolve!
And now? She and her son have a brand new family tradition - he gets his very own little tree to decorate anyway he wants - with whatever he wants!
As important as tradition is, the focus should be on the present - having fun, goofing off together and creating new memories with your children.
Make Use Of Listening Time
Parenting is a full time job - everyday, with no vacation days! Parenting can be very fulfilling, with many moments of love, laughter and joy. But in good measure, there will be tears, tantrums and days where you just don’t know which direction to take. Society tends to forget that parents are people too! They need safe spaces, kindness and forgiveness - and more so around the holidays when all the world’s demands and expectations dawn on them all at once.
Have you heard about Listening Partnerships? It is a tool for parents by Hand in Hand Parenting USA. You can use Listening Partnerships regularly to help with the pressures and tensions of parenting and family life.
Read more about it on our blog. https://www.triyoke.org/post/emotional-backpack
We recommend getting plenty of listening ahead of time. Things will always go wrong—kids being disappointed about gifts, family doing things differently, schedules being disrupted—but if you can address some of your concerns about these issues ahead of time (after all, if they happen every year, they can often be predicted), you'll clear your mind to respond in a more thoughtful, creative way.
Prepare yourself (emotionally) for the holidays… Just as you would stock up on snacks and goodies to serve your guests before a big gathering, you need to make sure your emotional cup is full enough, both for yourself and your child!
DEAP - Drop everything & pillowfight!
According to Psychologist Larry Cohen, author of Playful Parenting, the holiday season may be a time for parents and children to fill their inner cups through family time, traditions, festivals, presents, and sweets. Routine disruptions, excessive togetherness, poor family relationships, mandatory parties, competitiveness, the incorrect presents, and too many snacks, on the other hand, can all easily empty our glasses.
He advises against getting caught up in "shoulds." You may assume that festivals 'should' be enjoyable, but it is actually stressful, and the truth is more important than the should. To fill everyone's cup, you and your children will need extra attention, so don't get irritated if they weren't full when they 'should' have been.
Larry's go-to method for quickly refilling cups? He recommends DEAP: Or two minutes of emergency, if you drop everything and pillow fight. Everyone, including you, has a great time!
How will a pillow fight help? It’s a few minutes of carefree tension release! But make sure you have your safety in place first - move fragile/sharp objects out of the way, choose an open area/room, and set ground rules for how hard everyone is allowed to ‘fight’.
Children love surprise pillow fights! You can sneak up on your kids and take them by surprise! An ambush… of play and connection!
Tantrums need privacy
Tantrums and outbursts are just expressions of big emotions… be it pleasure, excitement, anger, fear or disappointment. If your child is about to descend into a weeping/crying fit, be sure that there is a big feeling driving his/her behaviour. We call it Spoiled Outing Syndrome.
These tantrums can come on suddenly, and can be very frustrating, especially when they happen in public, during a family gathering or even at the end of a long day when you’re exhausted and ready for bed.
If there are people around witnessing these tantrums, you have likely heard things like -
"Stop now, what's all this crying about?"
“Give them what they want!”
“Let him have as many cookies as he likes!”
Inversely, they may say
“Don’t give him everything he wants!”
“You’re not being strict enough!”
When faced with this situation, your first step would be to remove your child and yourself from this situation… because tantrums are emotional expressions, they need privacy, not an audience! Take them into a private space, it can even be the bathroom, and just let them release the emotion that is brimming over. Using the tool of Stay Listening you can ride this emotional roller coaster without giving into the tantrum and by still filling their emotional cup so they can repair and come out and play.
Read more about Stay Listening here - https://www.triyoke.org/post/addressing-tears-tantrums
Santa’s not judging
A recent social media movement seems to be “Santa is cancelled” because there are posts floating around about how letting your kids believe in Santa is “lying” and can damage your parent-child relationship. Although there is some truth to the fact that letting them believe he is real to only later find out he’s not might cause some fallout, there are ways to work around this without cancelling poor father christmas!
We say - teach your kids about Santa as you would about mermaids, fairies or unicorns - they are all make believe! Let them know from the start that he isn’t real, but he’s a beloved character of Christmas fables - no different than Cinderella or Anna and Elsa!
Another important point to remember is that - there should be no elf on the shelf. Growing up, we’ve all wanted to be on Santa’s nice list, but most probably ended up on the naughty one! No matter how innocent the notion behind this story is, it can actually do more harm than good to our children. Feeling like they are under the judging eye of Father Christmas can cause a lot of different feelings - and can raise questions related to their self worth & value.
Punishment, at its most basic level, is intended to cause physical or psychological harm to a child in order to deter "bad" behaviour while also getting obedience and establishing authority.
This is a "prisoner-warden" method to parenting, according to Dr. Shefali Tsabury, Clinical Psychologist and author of The Conscious Parent. The "warden" is expected to keep a tight eye on the "prisoner's" behaviours, which are either "correct" or "incorrect." After that, the "warden" administers either a penalty or a reward. Unfortunately, the prisoner grows reliant on the warden to control his or her behaviour.
“It’s because discipline focuses on behavior, not on the feelings driving the behavior, that it undercuts the very thing we are trying to accomplish.” Dr. Shefali Tsabury
Whether your children have behaved desirably or undesirably, they are still deserving of love, support and presents too! So we say let’s ditch this naughty & nice list, and not create an environment of rewards and punishments, rather, let there be acceptance!
You can read more about conditional parenting, and why it doesn't work here - https://raisedgood.com/punishments-time-outs-rewards-conditional-parenting-doesnt-work/
Play Family Connection Games
For a quick and effective reconnect when things seem distant, you can try out these fun family connection games by Hand in Hand Parenting USA.
Good For: Re-connecting when you feel distant or have been busy, or your child would love extra support, perhaps after starting school.
How to Play: Lie on your bed with your legs in the air. Tell your child you are a landing pad just waiting for a plane. Balance your child by placing your feet on their stomach and holding their hands. Then gently give 'lift-off', raising them in the air. As your child's courage grows you can experiment with letting go of their hands.
I Want it THIS (silly) Way
Good For: When your child has trouble following requests, or starts needing things done very exactly, like insisting on one colored bowl or getting upset if a sandwich is cut in squares not triangles.
How to Play: Find a random object, like a cushion, and playfully suggest that no-one touch it. “I hope no-one knocks this pillow off my head.” Wait for your child to tentatively (at first) or gleefully knock it off. Listen for laughter and then rinse and repeat. Try varying your demands at other times: "I hope no- one pulls my socks off," or "I hope no-one hides my blue block."
Good For: Relieving grouchiness and building co-operation
How to Play: Find somewhere soft to play - a bed or thick rug is best - and get down on all fours. Take on a horse character and say, "I bet no-one can sit on my back." Once your child jumps on, begin bucking them around slowly, listening for laughter. Experiment and see if throwing them off brings laughter or if it feels too overpowering. If it does, act like an exhausted horse and collapse with your child still on top of you. They may revel in this power!
I’ll Give You 100 Hugs:
Good For: This game addresses niggling ‘Am I loved?’ feelings that can drive a child to disconnected and annoying behaviours. If your child's behavior indicates they are feeling less than good about themselves - maybe ‘acting out’ on say, the cat, or a sibling - then this is the game for you.
How to Play: It’s simple. Tell your child you’ve got 100 hugs for them and start to lumber towards them. Move slowly, with open arms and warm eye contact, if you can, and head towards them.
Watch how they react and follow their lead. If it looks like they want to stay put for that hug, squeeze them warmly and gently. If they start to run, bumble along behind them, saying, “Oh, here I come with my 100 hugs.”
I’m Going To Catch You
Good For: Power issues and confidence. If your child is starting school, or is in a new environment and doesn’t feel quite as quick or skilled as siblings or friends, play this game often and let the laughs out as you give chase.
How to Play: A cousin of ‘100 hugs,’ simply say. “Here I come, I’m going to catch you.” Maybe you grab a shirt tail as you chase but somehow your child gets away again and you keep trying, keep bumbling along behind them. Keep going, keep beaming and keep playful in your attempts to catch them.
For more useful tools, tips and tricks, visit Hand in Hand Parenting USA - a non profit organisation that promotes the concept of “Parenting by Connection.”