Tag Archives: Christmas

Coping with Christmas


This free, online session on the 10th of December from 7.30 – 8.30 pm discusses parent’s concerns about Christmas, explores setting expectations and equips parents with the skills to manage family conflict and stress during the holiday period.

Session made possible with support from the McCall Social Fund.

Available for parents in the Antrim & Newtonabbey area.

Call freephone 08088010722 to register!

Parents Guide: Gift Giving

Christmas is for many families an exciting time of year. For children, it is often (along with birthdays) a particular highlight. In addition to being off school, eating particularly delicious meals and spending time with friends and family, there is the expectation of gifts.

Every family is different – and children’s experiences and expectations around festive gift giving can vary greatly. What one child might consider a fantastic haul might bitterly disappoint another. As parents, it can be challenging to finely balance this. Financial pressures, peer pressure and difficulty understanding which exact version of game, which model truck or which outfit for a doll that your child wants can increase the stress of parents. This article will give parents a few tips on how to avoid conflict and how to react if your child expresses jealousy, unhappiness or disappointment in gifts.

Talking about Advertisements

Advertising can influence expectations, and in particular young children can fail to understand that advertisements are trying to get them (or rather, their parents) to buy a product (Oates et al. 2002). In particular, children under the age of 8 struggle to understand the purpose of advertisements, and see them as entertainment, information or helping viewers (Pine, 2007). In addition to this, children may not understand that advertisements may not accurately reflect the size, abilities or functions of a toy. This may lead to inevitable disappointment when an action figure cannot fly, a doll cannot converse or the like. There are advertising standards, which have tightened since the 1990’s, but with the gradual fusing of advertising and entertainment (particularly on social media) it can be difficult for children to know where one stops and the other begins.

Therefore, parents of very young children may want to talk to their children about what ads are, and what they are trying to do. If a parent notices their child watching a TV show, or a YouTube video with ads for toys (or with toys in the content itself), they should consider taking the time to communicate with their child. Ask them if they can tell the difference between the entertainment part and the sales pitch. By working together, you can ensure that children know what to expect from the toys they unwrap on Christmas day.

Manage Expectations

Children – particularly young children – have little ability to understand the true cost of the items they desire. As their parent, it is up to you to set a reasonable level of expectation in terms of money spent on gifts. This applies as much to gifts from “Santa” as it does gifts from their parents. Dr Dan Peters, a psychologist gives the following suggestions for helping to avoid difficulties:

  • Model good behaviour. Your children get their views about getting or giving gifts from you. Be careful about the language you use regarding gifts. Try to talk more about giving gifts, particularly to those in need. Try to focus less on what your children are getting.
  • Be aware of what your child is being exposed to. As previously mentioned about advertisements, children hear about gifts from friends, in school and in public. Make sure to challenge any ideas about what is or is not appropriate as soon as you hear them, in a positive way.
  • Don’t focus on presents. This is easier said than done. We live in a society that is driven by consumption, but your family can focus on the other aspects of the holidays. Talk to your children about what else they are excited about: spending time with family, food, putting up decorations and the like.

Reacting to negative behaviour

It can be extremely frustrating to hear a child say “I didn’t want this”, “Why did he get the good one and I didn’t?” or “Is that it?” It is entirely natural to be upset, but do not forget in the heat of the moment that it is a child saying these things. Instead of reacting with anger or expressing that frustration, parents should take this as a teaching opportunity.

Firstly, remember that for children, dealing with disappointment can be good for their development. Taylor (2011) notes that children who experience disappointment but are helped to overcome it develop better emotional control, higher levels of confidence and are more motivated. It is normal for parents to want to protect children from disappointment, and few parents will want their child to be disappointed with gifts that they spent money on.

However, as with other aspects of gift giving, dealing with disappointment can be beneficial if parents take the time to communicate with their child. If your child seems unhappy, ask them:

  • Why are you unhappy? What were your expectations?
  • Do they understand what they have, and have they allowed a small amount of negativity hid a lot of joy?
  • Is there anything they can do to address this themselves? Can they ask someone else for help?

Remember that your children develop their coping skills from you. If you are careful not to overreact to disappointment and to calmly express your feelings, they will find it easier to do the same. There are three things a parent should be careful to do if their child is reacting very negatively to a gift;

  • Don’t feed into a tantrum. If a child is struggling to control their emotions, take them away to a quiet place and help them to calm down;
  • Be careful not to escalate the problem. You understand the full context – how much it cost, how long you waited in line, how far you had to go. Your child often does not. Do not respond to their behaviour by saying or doing anything likely to further upset them;
  • Help them to understand – once they have calmed down – why what they did was not ideal. Be patient, and do not try to shame them for their reaction.

Conclusion

There is no simple way to avoid all disappointment at Christmas. Instead of focussing on having a “perfect” holiday season, parents should try to focus on what is in their control. They should take the time to enjoy their family, and move the focus away from getting presents.  Most importantly is to enjoy your time together as a family and make the most of all opportunities e.g. get out for a walk in the fresh air, play a board game or watch a family movie.  It is likely that these little things will be what your children remember most about when Christmas has been and gone. 

Managing Christmas Stress

 

Christmas can be a wonderful time of year filled with lots of celebrations and fun for families, but it can also be very stressful for many parents. Parents can feel the pressure of managing their children’s expectations alongside managing the financial stresses that the time of year brings.

Local parenting support charity Parenting NI say that the pressures of meeting children’s expectations, managing children’s behaviour and dealing with separation make this time of year really difficult for a lot of families in Northern Ireland. The charity is encouraging parents to seek support if they are finding they are struggling to cope over the festive period.

Chief Executive at Parenting NI, Charlene Brooks said,

“There are a number of things Parenting NI would encourage parents to do to try and limit the stresses and expense of the holiday period. Expectations around Christmas are often high with so many putting an emphasis on the ‘perfect’ family Christmas. We would suggest to parents, as difficult as this can be, to not to get drawn into what others are spending or doing and do what is right for your family. Try to plan by writing a list of everything you need and setting a budget, most importantly, try and stick to your budget.

“Talk to your children about the value of things and explain that it’s not all about getting presents, that Christmas time is a good time to spend together and make memories. Good communication is so important within a family, if you are feeling the pressure don’t be afraid to ask for help. The less stressed you are as a parent, the less stressed your children will feel.

Separation is another big issue for a lot of families Parenting NI support, for parents who don’t have access to their children over the festive period it is particularly distressing and isolating. Parents who are struggling in general and / or want support with managing separation over Christmas please get in touch with Parenting NI on freephone 0808 8010 722.”


Separation at Christmas

Family breakdown is never easy, but for parents who are separated or separating Christmas can be a particularly difficult time. It can also be a very sad and frustrating time for parents who may not have access to their children. 

Communication is key when it comes to managing separation at any time but particularly at Christmas, and hopefully you will or have been able to come to an informal arrangement with your ex partner to enable you to see your children and spend time with them over the holidays.

Parenting NI understand that it can cause parents a lot of distress, so here are a few tips on coping with separation at Christmas:

Try not to worry about the “Perfect Family Christmas”
At Christmas we are bombarded with imagery which depicts what media portrays to be the ideal Christmas. It helps to remind yourself that there isn’t a perfect way to celebrate Christmas and try not to put any unrealistic expectations on yourself.

Make the most of the time you do have together
Any time that you do spend with your children over the holidays is special. Christmas shouldn’t be a competition between you and your ex where you try to outdo each other with presents for the children. Of course you will want to give your children gifts at Christmas but spending quality time together and having fun is just as important. This doesn’t have to mean expensive trips out either, doing crafts or playing games together at home is also great fun.

Put your children first
Regardless of your feelings towards your ex, try to think of what is best for your children. Research from family law organisation Resolution, found that 88% of children said it was important to them that their parents did not make them feel like they had to choose between their mum and dad. Whilst it is heartbreaking to not be seeing your child on Christmas Day try not to criticise the other parent too much in front of the children, no matter how angry you feel.

Don’t bottle up your feelings
Although it is important to remain positive for your children it is important for your own emotional wellbeing to have someone to talk to. If you are feeling upset and alone try talking to a family member or friend about how you feel. The Parents Regional Helpline will be available for periods during the holidays as well so if you would like a bit of support you can give us a call or chat to us on Web Chat. Details of opening hours can be found here.

If you don’t have access to your children over Christmas…
Make arrangements with your family or friends.  If anyone close to you is in the same situation, why not organise to see them; volunteer or invite them round for lunch so that you will not be by yourself. 

Christmas Opening Hours

Merry Christmas from Parenting NI

Our head office will close for Christmas break at 4:30pm on Tuesday 22nd December. The Helpline will be available for support at set times across the break and is closed, as normal, on Saturdays and Sundays. The Parents Helpline Christmas Opening Hours are as follows:

Christmas Opening Hours 2015

 

All of us here at Parenting NI would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and thank you for your continued support this year. We’re also looking forward to the new year which will see us start an exciting new project, so keep your eyes peeled for more information in January. We’ll see you in 2016! Hope Santa is good to you all 🙂