Parenting geek at Christmas: 25th December is just another day

By - Wednesday 23rd December, 2015

Croydon’s local ‘parenting geek’, Tara Green, offers advice on surviving the seasonal celebrations with sanity intact

Principles of a happy family Christmas

Christmas Day is just another day – your body will still need actual food as well as treats. The sensible part of us knows this, but the pressure to create a picture perfect Christmas is ingrained in us. We know that memories of Christmas stick in the mind, creating a tunnel of memories through which we can recall our Christmases past.

We all want this year to be a good one; we have the pressure of good-memory formation upon us. This pressure, combined with extended periods in the close and prolonged company of family, with the added bonuses of overeating, alcohol consumption and high expectations about gifts, could too easily be a recipe for indigestion and trauma.

Some families will be experiencing change and transition alongside their usual traditions. Divorce, relocation, bereavement and redundancy are big issues that affect families, with no let-up for the holiday season. Other people will feel trapped in the same old roles and routines that get rolled out each year but that hold little sparkle and joy anymore.

It’s just another day, but there is no denying that it’s a day more likely to be firmly planted in our long term memory banks. So how can we make it one that we want to remember and that we are glad to have experienced?

Consider these principles for a contented, happy family Christmas:

Have a genuine conversation that connects you to another.

Polite chit chat that sounds like conversation but is really just meaningless social noise will do little to fill the cup of connection and festive cheer. If there is a person with whom it’s difficult to converse, have some questions ready so that you can give them the gift of being listened to.

Eat, drink and be merry.

For each lump of lard or rock of sugar that you or the children consume, balance it up with some real, wholesome, actual food. There is much trouble ahead when children are powered on sugar alone. Christmas doesn’t have to be an invitation to Supersize Me!

For each gift that you open, give a kindness.

Counter the consumerism with care and compassion for your community and your family. A sprinkling of random acts of kindness makes life a nicer place to live in. Think what would mean a lot to you and do that for another. Spread cheer and warmth with a focus upon positive actions.

Too many of us know how these deflated reindeer feel after Christmas.
Photo by Daniel Oines, used under Creative Commons licence.

Assume the best possible motive when a family member gets right on your nerves!

Remember that what a person says or does tells you more about them than it does about you. They have their perspective on the world because all that they know is all that they know. When we have history with a person, we may look at what they have said to us and stew over it. We replay it in our mind, dissect it for implied negativity, read between the lines and add our own interpretations. Ask yourself if you would have had this reaction if a stranger had said the same thing. If you’re overthinking it you’re likely to have added extra layers of meaning. Taking a new perspective will give you a clearer view of what was said in a more dispassionate way. If you really feel that they were attacking, criticising, accusing or undermining you, you could ask for clarification: “I may have taken this the wrong way, but when you said x to me earlier, did you mean y?”

Do something for yourself.

Remember what you like about Christmas and build that aspect in to your time. No one else has to think that the things you choose to do for yourself are special; these are personal preferences. Kindness, time and stress-relieving moments for you will create more harmony for you and therefore for those around you. If Christmas is all crazy-rush and busy-hassle, you’ll be too empty to enjoy it and too wrung out to have anything to give of yourself.

Agree to differ.

People that you are close to via family ties may feel miles apart from you in views on the world. You don’t have to agree with them or persuade them of your view. You can explore your differences whilst remaining civil and respectful, even if heated and passionate, then learn about the other’s views with a deep discussion. If it gets ugly fast and leaves bad feelings and recriminations in the atmosphere, then leave it alone. No one teaches anyone anything positive and perspective-changing in that scenario. Keep yourself under control and have a phrase ready to dish out, such as “I’m forgetting our differences today. They give me indigestion on top of a meal as big as this one!”

Capture little snapshots of the day.

This was advice that was given to me for my wedding and it was a great gift. I was advised to stop every so often and take a moment to notice what was happening around me and to consciously see the detail and bathe in the positivity so that I could keep special moments in memory. The memories of an event are the bits that last, so consciously collect them like little gemstones to decorate your mind and to be able to revisit and enjoy again. Don’t let all of your hard work culminate in a day in which you’re so busy that you barely knew that you were in it!

And so it only remains for me to wish you all a happy Christmas. May it bring you and your family good cheer and good times.

Tara Green

Tara Green

Tara Green is a mum of three and wife of one, parenting blogger and coach, hoping that no one will notice that she's learning the craft of raising kids whilst on the job. Specialist life coach for children and parents, providing individual sessions and group workshops. Parenting columnist for the Croydon Advertiser. Find out more at

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  • Anne Giles

    Great article. Now that my parents and his parents are long gone, we just have ourselves. My stepson broke off relations with us six years’ ago and we have not been allowed to see his three daughters since then. However, we thoroughly enjoy Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day with just us two and the dog. We open our presents (his to me and mine to him) and the dog loves opening his. We play folky Christmas carols and watch a little television and then go out for a meal after Boxing Day. Relations – well – my siblings, nephews and children meet up for a meal in a pub in January and my sister-in-law plus grown up offspring meet up later on for a nice meal. No hard work and no arguments and it’s all rather nice. In the past, when everyone was around, it used to be fairly stressful. Now it’s lovely!