Charging around getting presents, late nights, getting the food together and the kids going bananas? Take a moment to read our blog on managing expectations at Christmas
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…
...well, it can be if you take it easy and try and manage expectations at Christmas!
Christmas can be the most wonderful time of the year. December can be a magical time, exciting, full of anticipation and wonder for people both small and big alike.
The world seems to speed up around now and it’s easy to get caught up in it. With so much to cram into the last few weeks, December can often feel like the final hurdle that has to be navigated before we collapse in a heap.
But the run-up to Christmas can be very stressful. At a time when household budgets are being squeezed, financial pressures combined with the constant advertising which seems to pervade just about everywhere can take its toll. It’s really not surprising to see kids of all ages getting a case of the “I wants.”
There may be emotional stresses from family and resulting from previous Christmas experiences. Plus there is the added pressure of wanting to get everything ‘just perfect’ for The Big Day.
Children can also feel overwhelmed and tired as there is so much going on, at school, out and about, and at home too. They are out of routine. It’s important to keep this in mind, especially if your child has special needs or is settling into a new environment. It can be a lot for them to process and deal with. Perceived ‘naughtiness’ can be simply tiredness, over-excitement and over-stimulation, combined with the end of the school term. You’re frazzled and maybe they are too!
“By Christmas you are almost scraping the kids of the ceiling they are that hyper, and then the crash comes…” Sue, Coventry carer
So, how do you get the balance right, manage children’s expectations and still have an enjoyable Christmas?
We haven’t got all the answers, but we have got some top tips from Coventry parents and carers which will hopefully go some way to help!
Talk about Christmas…
Sit down and discuss Christmas together. Talk about what Christmas means, traditions, and discuss the value of money and the importance of giving as well as receiving. Christmas is a good time to try and instil these values.
Ask the children what they think Christmas means and what they would like. You might be surprised by some of the answers! A book from the library might help explain it to smaller children. Explain to your children that they can’t have everything just because they believe their friends will have them.
“The toy section of the Argos catalogue has been gone through a million times now and the toys they ‘really really definitely need’ and ‘everyone else has got one’ have been circled. In fact, there’s not much catalogue left now...” Kirsty, Coventry mum.
Christmas can be harrowing and full of guilt for many parents and carers who feel they may be letting their children down by not giving them everything they want. But with household debt on the increase, maybe teaching them the value of money and preparing them to make astute, realistic choices in managing their own finances when the time comes for them to do so? After all we are all trying to prepare our children to be responsible adults in the future.
Talk about their Christmas wish list. Is it realistic? Is it what they would really like? With younger children waiting for Father Christmas, managing expectations will be trickier, given that they may feel they can have anything as Father Christmas “will make it”. Parents and carers will probably have different strategies for dealing this.
“We tell our children that the more ‘expensive’ presents come from relatives and Father Christmas brings the smaller stocking fillers”. Scott, Coventry dad.
Gifts from Father Christmas can also include things the children might need anyway, like new colourful toothbrushes, socks and pants. Budget shops can be a really good source for stationary items and toiletries. With children and adults alike much more aware of environmental concerns, consider whether you are just buying 'future landfill' or things that are actually going to be used and appreciated.
Set your budget and stick to it…
As children get older. be as open as you can about the budget you have. Older children in particular may have more understanding of the value of things. You might want to try this with your family and friends too and set some agreed boundaries! For example, instead of buying presents for the whole family, how about a setting a budget, or doing a 'Secret Santa' instead of everyone buying everyone else a gift. It's maybe worth remembering you won;t be the only one feeling the pressure- try not to get caught in costs spiralling in some form of keeping up or feeling guilty about restricting finances.
Money Saving Expert has some great tips on keeping costs down at Christmas
Get your own little elves involved…
Consider getting the children involved with choosing gifts for family. This activity might help them refocus from themselves to other people. Discuss what the receiver might like and why. It might also help them understand the financial implications of gift buying. Maybe challenge older children to choose a present for a relative within a certain budget and see what they come up with (could be interesting!).
Keep things simple (and cheaper!)
Consider making gifts, like biscuits, drawings and photographs, or making ‘vouchers’ for treats like breakfast in bed, a lie-in, or helping to wash the car. This gets the children involved, proud of what they have made and excited to give their present. Practical gifts like vouchers (as long as they will get used) can help throughout the year too
'We asked for a donation for a family and friends railcard last year from our close relatives- not only did we save the cost of it back in one journey to Brighton, but it has encouraged us to do more trips out on the train too' Rachel- Coventry mum
Discuss secondhand gifts, does it have to be brand new? Could they donate something to a child who is less well off in the spirit of Christmas?
“We’ve always asked the children to donate some of their toys and books they no longer want before Christmas so other children who might not be as fortunate as them will receive something too. It’s important they understand that Christmas is primarily about giving”. Sarah, Coventry mum.
Charitable donations are becoming increasingly popular as Christmas gifts, and this could provoke some discussion about charities and giving to others.
Are you thinking of getting your older children after the latest mobile phone or bike? That's great, but is it going to put them in potentially vulnerable situations? Are they aware how to lock phones and keep them safe? Trackers and apps such as Life 360 or ''Find my Iphone' can help keep track of where phones (and teens) are- but do make sure you are letting your child know you are tracking the phone and why. With bikes trackers can also be bought- but most importantly ensure they are aware of cycle safety, the importance of lights and consider where they might be able to lock it up - the Council and partners have some great information here
Traditions, routines (or lack of) and expectations…
Whatever your beliefs, you probably have some Christmas traditions, whether that’s going to church, watching the Queen’s speech, a walk in the park or visiting friends and family.
Given that children’s normal routines go all out of sync over the festive period, it’s a good idea to plan ahead for activities and outings and explain what will be happening and when so they know what to expect. As Pauline, a Coventry carer states; ‘lower your own expectations for the holiday and as ever try and keep the children up to date with what's going to happen’
It’s likely that you’ll spend more time together than at any other time in the year and this can bring it’s own stresses. Mixing ‘out of the house’ days with duvet/ lazy days can be a great way to share some laughs or tears over Christmas films and recharge the batteries, and keep some money in your pocket. If you can, utilise friends and families too to shake up the dynamic a little
Children in fostering families
Christmas can be particularly challenging for children who are in ‘new’ family settings, whatever form that might take. Christmas is an emotional time for everyone, and for children in fostering households contact visits with relatives are likely be more emotionally charged than usual.
Children may also find that Christmas triggers many memories of Christmases past which may have been difficult - domestic violence is often reported to spike around the festive period with pressures, and additional alcohol often around as Sandra Horley, CBE Chief Executive of Refuge, a domestic violence charity states “Christmas can be an incredibly difficult time for women and children experiencing domestic violence. Christmas is meant to be a time of joy, a time of generosity, a time of caring. But for too many women and children, the 25th December will be yet another day of living with fear, intimidation and violence’ The charity Mind also has some tips for reducing stress at Christmas as people who are more vulnerable to anxiety and stress may find the festive period extremely challenging- an interesting blog has been written by Kyle for the charity which also gives an insight and tips on coping if you feel this way or know someone who might be
Feelings of grief and loss can be poignant during the festive period and it’s important to strike the balance between making Christmas extra special, yet keeping it within the wider context of other lived experiences. Different families have very different ‘traditions’ and expectations around Christmas therefore finding out what is ‘normal’ for children in fostering families and incorporating, where appropriate, some of their routines and ‘normalities’ can help to them validate their experience and enhance their feelings of belonging.
At the end of the day, Christmas doesn’t come from a shop. Christmas comes from the heart.
Although we may see advertising at every turn, we can help to manage expectations at Christmas by keeping things as calm as possible, listening to each other and instilling values in children, for example of love, giving, caring, understanding and communication.
Have a wonderful Christmas! Peace, love and goodwill to all.
The Fostering Team
We will be open up until 24th December and re-opens 2nd January. If you would like to join our team of dedicated foster carers who provide Coventry children with safe, positive and nurturing homes please get in touch with us or give us a call on 024 7683 2828
Our next recruitment events are:
DROP IN Thursday 19 December 10-11am Starbucks Drive Tru, Island Site, Tile Hill, CV5 6UA
DROP IN Wednesday 8 January 6-7pm The Yard, Bullyard, CV1 !LH
INFORMATION PRESENTATION EVENT Saturday 18 January 10-11am Xcel Leisure Centre, Mitchell Avenue, Canley, CV4 *DY
Any thoughts on this blog or top tips you would like to share- please do below!