Every family is different and many have their own special traditions at Christmas. Sometimes parents who are parenting alone, or families experiencing separation or in transition, might feel that their Christmas traditions aren’t somehow ‘as good’ as those we’re bombarded with on TV and in magazines around this time of year. Remember that those images of ‘perfect’ smiling families relaxing around roaring log fires with feasts that could actually feed twenty families are just that – images. In real life, a Christmas tradition is simply a shared experience between people who care about each other and enjoy spending quality time together. You can create your own that will be perfect for your family. Traditions provide children with a sense of belonging and continuity, and promote family well-being.
This week in our ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips, we explore some ideas for establishing Christmas traditions. Starting a family Christmas tradition for you and your child will result in happy memories that will last a lifetime. It’s simple and doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money.
- Start your traditions to coincide with the traditional Advent Calendar that every child usually loves. Very pretty Advent Calendars can be found in discount stores. You could even make your own.
- Make your Christmas cards with your children. The local discount shops also offer great value in art and craft materials. Most children love being creative with arts and crafts and this can be a great way to spend quality time together.
- Make Christmas cakes or puddings. Children love baking and it can be a very relaxing activity. Or you could consider buying a good value ready made cake that has not yet been decorated. You can allow your creativity to flow and decorate it together. Your children will be very excited to share it with Santa.
- Do fun things together as a family. Plan a time to visit Santa and enjoy a day out. Go to the park, wrap up warm. Bring a flask of hot chocolate and see the Christmas lights lit up in the evening. There are lots of organised family-friendly activities happening all over Ireland throughout December that are free to attend and enjoy.
- Allow the children save up some pocket money and set aside a time to bring them to buy little gifts for their family or school friends. Go to good value retailers and discount shops to find gifts for every budget.
- Set a date to put up the tree and make sure everyone knows beforehand so they can look forward to it. Do it together as a family. Children want to share in the excitement of putting on the decorations. Help them make their own new decoration each year to add to the tree. The tree doesn’t have to be perfect, just perfect for the family you have.
- Use some money that perhaps was allocated for present shopping for a day out at the Christmas panto. It should’t break the budget. From local community halls to the big stage, children will enjoy them all. These are memories that will stay with your child for ever.
- Plan Christmas Eve in advance. Does it need to be so busy? Can part of the day be spent relaxing? Bake treats for Santa, have a movie morning and watch your favourite Christmas movie together. Have a ‘pamper time’ where each person has to treat each family member. There are lots of things you could do. Go for walk in the local park, enjoy the atmosphere. Visit the Christmas markets and enjoy the smells, sights and sounds. Have breakfast together as a family, think back over the year and look forward to the next.
- Do something nice for you over the Christmas season. If you’re parenting alone, you need to acknowledge all you have done in the year. So pat yourself on the back this year. Your children are too young to be aware of all you do. Focus on what went well and give yourself a little treat. Arrange for a family member or friend to babysit if possible, and take some time out for you. It can be as simple as a long soak in the bath with new scented bubble bath. One day off in the year is allowed!
- Try to avoid doing things because just others – whether family members or friends – expect you to. Do what suits your family and enjoy the time with them. Christmas will be over very fast and you will wonder what it was all about otherwise. Christmas is what you make it.
This article is part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips, and is by One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly.
LIVE Facebook Q&A with Geraldine on creating Christmas traditions on Monday 8 December from 11am-12pm on One Family’s Facebook page. Join in and post your questions.
Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. For support and advice on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.