Holiday harmony or holiday hysterics?

Holiday harmony or holiday hysterics?

Director and author, Noel Janis-Norton talks us through her Christmas survival guide

holiday harmony

Children eagerly look forward to the Christmas holidays, while parents may be filled with a nagging sense of dread as they contemplate foot-long to-do lists, a tight budget, squabbling children underfoot, and the shops awash with relentless, commercialised Christmas cheer. But Christmas doesn’t have to be like this. With some careful planning, parents and children can enjoy calmer, easier, happier holidays. Here’s how:

Clarify your values

Start in early December by getting a handle, practically and emotionally, on the holiday season. With your partner (or if you are single, with a friend), spend an hour or two (in several short bursts if necessary) thinking through what Christmas means to you and what you want your children to get out of this special time.

Do you want to have a simpler and less expensive Christmas, helping your child to place less emphasis on receiving and more on giving and sharing?

Do you want your children to learn and understand a bit more every year about the major religious festivals: the Nativity, Chanukah, Diwali, etc.?

Do you want the family to share cosy at-home “down-time” together?

Do you want your children to realise that parents have to work long hours to pay for new toys, ski trips and designer labels?

Do you want to make sure your children won’t be spending too much time in front of a screen or eating too much junk food?

Do you want to introduce your children to some new experiences?

If you answered yes to any or all of the above questions, read on for some tried and tested solutions.

Day-to-day planning

Adjust your routines, but don’t drop them. Often parents feel that the school routine is hard on children and that they need freedom during their time off. However, even in the holidays, children still need structure, routines, rules and rewards.

Agree on a plan for each day. To keep children from spending too much time in front of a screen, or whingeing about being bored, parents need to arrange regular activities that are purposeful and challenging as well as fun.  Whether you are at home, in a hotel or staying with relatives, each day, right after breakfast, formally sit the children down and talk them through a step-by-step preview of what their day will consist of. Children always stay calmer and are more willing to be flexible when they know what to expect, such as:

-where they will be going and why
-whom they will have to say hello to
-any new rules or routines
-any unfamiliar foods they might be served
-what they can and cannot play with

Extract taken from Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting. Sticking to a few of Noel Janis-Norton's rules could be just the thing for a calmer Christmas. For more information, have a look at

Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting, By Noel Janis-Norton, £10.49,

Follow Noel on twitter at @calmerparenting


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