07843 055587 clare@clarecogan.com

When you have school aged children, this Christmas half term is inevitably the one which proves to be the most challenging. It is the one which my husband and I brace ourselves for, knowing that we are going to need to skills of a ninja to see our way through it.

The reason we find it so totally overwhelming and stress provoking at times is there are so many demands on ours and our children’s time, and energy, whilst still trying to manage the day to day activities which need to be done. We still have to eat, work and manage the normal school routine, right?

Life doesn’t stop in these inevitable weeks leading up to Christmas, but we do have to pack so much more in. So far, just off the top of my head, I can think of a school bazaar, a drama performance, 2 galas, 2 carol concerts and a Cub Christmas party, and that’s off the top of my head!

So, what can we do to help the festive season feel enjoyable and not a test of endurance so we don’t collapse at the end of it?

Plan in advance – make sure all the dates, times and duration of these events are in the diary and commuicate these to your other half well in advance in the mode which he will pay attention to (I find email works best for us). Flag up the ones which your children are ‘expected’ to attend – for mine it is their school Carol Concert. ┬áThen look at the ones where the choices can be made. I have had children on their knees with tiredness before and yet still begging to go to the school Christmas disco which ‘everyone else’ is going to. Take a step back and make a call on it, a lot of children get ill at this time of year because they are so exhausted and sometimes we just have to be the parent and say no, no matter how upset it makes them. The way I rationalise it is, are they really going to enjoy it if they are that tired?

Keep other activities to a minimum – the temptation to continue with the normal ‘play dates’ and other events is tempting as you know how much your child loves playing with your friends, but for their energy, and your own sanity, treat this half term as one which is a bit different and talk this through with your child. This will help them understand everything that is going on and that their friends will still be there in January to have play dates with when everything calms down a bit.

This time of year is also when FOMO hits most acutely, and to be aware of this is half the battle. ‘Fear of Missing Out’ is when you make a decision based on not wanting to ‘miss out’ on that amazing event or opportunity to celebrate or socialise rather than actually wanting to go. The same rules apply to you as your children, if you try to do everything and keep up with all the social events then you are likely to wear yourself out and not enjoy the ones you go to, whilst running the risk of getting unwell and collapsing with exhaustion/illness – it happens, I see it every year. One year I actually had swine flu over Christmas because I did not let up on myself and I am determined that this will not happen again. Choose the social occasions to spend time with the people who you actually want to spend time with and remember, just because you ‘have always done a Christmas thing with such and such and so and so’, it doesn’t mean that you can’t move it to the New Year instead or, shock horror, not do it at all!!

Try and carve some time out as a family to relax, regroup and be at home over this period, instead of rushing to keep up with what ‘everyone else is doing’ or what your children ‘insist’ on doing. Remember that your children do take their guidance from you and this can help them understand how to make choices and not be in such a hurry to get involved in everything.

My oldest Joseph is what we describe as an ‘activity bug’, he will get involved in and volunteer for anything and everything which can wear him out. I was relieved when he came home the other day to let me know he hadn’t volunteered to be a reader at the Christmas Concert because he thought he couldn’t do it because he had something else going on. He could but he didn’t have to as he is already doing so much else and sometimes we need to support him to stop and enjoy not doing as well as doing!

Above all lovely mums, enjoy this time, try to take some time to stop, breathe and spend time with the people you want to spend time with and create some lovely memories which aren’t clouded by the ‘shoulds’ or ‘needs’, try to focus on the ‘wants’ and ‘choices’ you can make this festive season.

Love Clare x

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