Parents, in this PC world, you don’t need to feel bad about loving Christmas

  • Monday, December 04, 2017
  • Shona Innes Psychology

In this era of politically correct (PC), uber-responsibility, super-anxious parenting there is SOOOO much out there about the things that parents should and shouldn’t do at Christmas. It seems that there are plenty of ways that you can get Christmas ethically or morally wrong – share the “wrong” food, buy the “wrong” presents, …“Arrrggggh!!!!

Am I being a good enough parent this Christmas???”

All of these rules are things that you probably never worried about before and I am quite certain that you did not bother about then them much when you were a young child. You likely just loved the excitement and anticipation, the gifts and the lollies, or the time spend with friends and extended family.

If you are feeling burdened by too many rules about “how to Christmas”, remember to think about what is most important to you. What do you value? 

Different parents will have different priorities and goals – each parent can define how they hope their end-game of parenting would be when their parenting years are over. If you’re not sure about what things you value, perhaps take some time to imagine your children as adults making a speech at your 50th or 60th birthday. What kinds of things would you hope they might say about you and what you have taught them over the years of your parenting? Success, kindness, tolerance, eco-consciousness, wealth, family, friendship, loyalty – the importance we place on each of these values will vary.

Grounding ourselves in what we value can help us surf the various waves of “advice” or opinions on social media that pound their way through parenting communities. If we ground ourselves with what is most dear to us, then we can filter out the ideals that are of lesser importance and take some load off.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, here are some suggestions for rolling out your “Christmas as usual” and, at the same time, taking the wonderful opportunities that Christmas naturally brings to have gentle conversations with your kids that might align with some of your values

Tolerance – If you value tolerance and would like to imbue your children with a little more tolerance, Christmas is a great time for little conversations about cultures, beliefs and other peoples’ points of view. It can be great to talk about or ask your kids what they know about different cultures. Do different cultures celebrate Christmas? If not, what do other cultures celebrate? What rituals and beliefs are important to other people? What food? What music? Perhaps, you can even get some time to do some research together over the holidays. You could even go to the library.

Family – There is plenty telling us that we are spending more time online and that this can affect the time children spend on sleep, exercise and homework, but it can also affect the amount of time children spend actually being with, talking to, and interacting with their family. You might want to try some screen-free time over the Christmas break, but be wary, this will be a goal that takes effort. If kids (and parents) are used to lots of screen time and then screens are banned for a time, there will most likely be a period of heightened arousal, angst, distress, whinging, arguing and general resentment that you will have to ride out. It’s important that you don’t give in and weaken, but stand steady in your goal because this burst will eventually pass. If more screens are being gifted to your children this Christmas, it can also be helpful to add a small contract to the gift – a contract that everyone signs that outlines the rules for screen time and the consequences if rules are broken.

Kindness – Christmas is a great time to emphasise acts of kindness. You can talk about presents, but also just generally about giving and being with others. Do we give presents because we want to? Do we give presents because they make other people feel good? Do we give them because of retailers and consumerism pressures? It’s never too early to talk to children (in age appropriate ways of course) about the powers of advertising and marketing.

Patience – Children all have different temperaments. You might notice that some are very patient while others find it really difficult to wait or to delay their gratification. Christmas anticipation involves a lot of waiting and is can help to have a calendar to keep track, but you can also talk about waiting. You can talk about surprises. You can acknowledge the deliciousness of expectation and how that feeling is all too quickly over if we rush things.

Reciprocity – You may believe that it is important for kids to learn to balance give and take or simply learn to take turns. For generations across many, many cultures, there have been games that involve rules and taking turns. If this is something you value, then board games or even a game of chasie or back yard cricket can help kids practice turn taking as well as winning and losing.

So, there you go, just a few easy little Christmas moments that you can enjoy and perhaps just even extend a little to take advantage of their potential to emphasise a value.

Please don’t take this list and add it to your “parents should” pressure. That would-be counter to its intention. Instead, just know that there is plenty about Christmas that children can benefit from. May your Christmas be safe and happy.

While Shona is regularly engaged to deliver assessments, reports and treatment for troubled children and young people, she is also available for consulting, speaking and workshops. Call Shona Innes Psychology on 0400 150 106 or email: admin@shonainnes.com or contact us via this website.