Have a Merry Christmas! - a hollow greeting indeed if you are anything like the average parent of small children. This time of year seems to bring out the demands, crying and tantrums like no other - just when you have all that Christmas shopping to do!
Fortunately, there are a number of simple strategies which can be implemented to reduce the stress and actually make preparing for Christmas fun for all the family.
When travelling to the shops with young children it pays to plan ahead. Ensure kids are properly rested, well fed and you that have a quality all purpose stroller at the ready, which is comfortable and can be easily navigated through narrow shopping aisles.
If possible, go to the shops early in the morning before the traffic hits its peak. If you are tired, hot and frustrated, small children can sense these feelings and become distressed.
Set a standard - don’t regularly give in to children’s demands for toys or lollies. This can lead to the conclusion that if they make enough of a fuss, you will cave and buy them something.
Nagging - can be minimised by setting expectations prior to leaving home. State clearly that you will not be buying toys or lollies but if they are well behaved they will be rewarded when they get home. Take along a special toy or book which is only brought out on shopping trips so that it has some novelty to them.
Places to avoid - steer clear of toy shops or supermarket aisles with impulse buys within the reach of grasping little fingers.
Tantrums - a common problem when shopping can occur when little ones are tired and may become over-emotional. Tips to deal with a tantrum:
- Remain calm
- Use distraction to divert their attention
- For children over 3, explain you will discuss the situation only when they have calmed down
- Pick up the child and move them to quieter surroundings
- Always be consistent
- Never validated poor behaviour by giving in
Thought for food
Sugar, artificial additives and colouring are literally recipes for fractious, irritable children. While it can be tempting to offer processed food or drink in the hope that it will distract them, it can be likened to waving a red flag to a bull - it will escalate the problem.
Studies in the United Kingdom found that three year olds who drank juices containing preservatives and food colourings were less able to concentrate, had trouble falling asleep, had difficulty controlling their temper and interrupted more often.
Choose products which are labelled ‘preservative free’ rather than ‘no added preservatives’. This little loophole in wording often means preservatives have been added to specific ingredients prior to the final product being made.
Whether travelling or at home, have a range of healthy snacks on hand. Offering little ones a choice is the best way to empower them whilst controlling the quality of their diet.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Plain popcorn
- Fruit pieces
- Cut up veggies with some dip
- Delicious homemade frozen fruit popsicles
- Natural frozen yoghurt
Little ones love to help. They would rather spend time with you than in front of the tv so keep them amused by giving them small, age appropriate jobs. They could help you prepare snacks for Christmas Day, sweep up the kitchen or decorate the tree.
Play some Christmas music to set the atmosphere and encourage them to sing along. These are the occasions that will create lasting memories for everyone. How about organising some paper and envelopes to write letters to Santa?
For families, Christmas should be a time of fun, laughter and love. Using a few simple parenting tricks, you can bring the magic and excitement back into the season and make this truly a precious and joyous occasion.