Recommended Tips to keep things civil and stress-free this Christmas
Most of us look forward to the Xmas break after a busy year. With an ever-growing list of tasks to accomplish each day, it’s easy to let time with your partner and children slip down your priorities. In the Heavy M.E.T.A.L Program we spend the last session of the year with our participants brainstorming ideas on how we can make this the best Xmas for our family. One thing us men often forget is that our loved ones are also looking forward to the holiday period so that they can spend time with us. This can be a stressful time as we are home usually more than we are normally as we are not working. We do not consider our family’s has expectations and plans of what they would like to do with us because they want to make the best of being with us while we are home. Often this can conflict with the ideas we may have been planning or expecting to do.
It is also a time of year when things can become tense as Xmas day, New Year and summer holiday plans for separated families are negotiated and implemented. Christmas should be a happy time, a time when families get together to swap presents and stories, share meals and homes and enjoy each other’s company. But for some families with separated parents Christmas can be a time of sadness, disappointment and disagreement and often children are caught in the middle.
This is often because some parents put such a big focus on having to have the children on Christmas Day. The focus then becomes a power struggle between the separated parents who is going to have the children on the 25th December and often when this happens conflict arises which then has a negative impact on the children. Parents caught up in this power struggle underestimate this impact has on their children. (Family violence still effects the Children even if they are not directly abused)
Make Christmas time a happy childhood memory. One of the most important issues for children’s mental health is not to be exposed to disputes between their parents. Exposing a child to family violence is a form of abuse, regardless of whether the child is a target of such violence or not.
Christmas is meant to be a magical time for children. At Heavy METAL we encourage participants to let go of the Power and Control and put their differences with their ex-partner on the shelf during this period and give their children an amazing Xmas no matter what day it is. What does it matter whether it’s the 25th Dec or the 26th or 27th it is only a day. Whichever day you can spend with your kids you make that day your own special Xmas day. You make it a magical day which the kids will not forget. In fact; it should not be for a day, it should be for every time you spend time together not just at Xmas.
Recommended Tips to keep things civil and stress-free this Christmas
Step 1: Be reasonable
- Regardless of what has happened between you and the other parent, it is important not to criticise the other parent when talking to the children.
- You need to accept that your children love the other parent, and the relationship that they have with that parent must be protected. By criticising the other parent, you can create tension for your children because then they want to please you and agree with you but at the same time they still love their other parent.
- A counsellor can offer helpful advice on how to cope with difficult relationships. Remember Men’s Line is a 24/7 support service for Men and Safer Steps is a 24/7 support service for women. Click here for a list of services you can access: https://heavymetalgroup.com.au/links/
Step 2. Communication
A communication book may be a helpful tool if you cannot communicate effectively. You could also communicate via text and email – whatever method is chosen; the aim is to shield your kids from the conflict between yourself and the other parent to prevent what sometimes can be irreversible harm caused to your child’s emotional and psychological wellbeing. Another tip here is not to get caught up in the text warfare, keep the communication “business like” about the children. Do not make personal attacks, do not bring up other issues. Be polite and keep the conversation child focused.
Tips for a Child-Focused and Happy Christmas Holiday
- Make sure both parents know about any Christmas plays, concerts or activities coming up and that they can attend.
- Involve the children in plan making: What would the children prefer to happen on Christmas day? Is splitting the Christmas day in half what the children would likely prefer? Or would they be happier not to travel on Christmas day – instead spending Christmas with one parent one year and Christmas with the other parent the next year? Would the children be excited to see both parents, grandparents or other people who are important to them on Christmas day?
- If you have your children on Christmas day, encourage them to have meaningful contact with the other parent through the course of the day via Skype, Facetime or by phone.
- Give thought to allowing the children take some of their gifts to the other parent’s home and help support them find a gift they can give to the other parent.
Have you planned holiday activities and outings, and taken time off work?
5 Reasons Spending Time with Family is Important
1. Builds Self-Esteem
Children who spend quality time with their loved ones generally have self-confidence. They are more sociable because they sense that their parents value them. Also, kids with self-esteem find it easy to build relationships.
2. Creates bonds
Spending time with family strengthens family ties. Also, families who enjoy group activities will develop strong relationships and handle stressful situations with ease. In this busy day and age, it is a luxury for parents to spend time with their children. Making time for the family will allow you to teach your kids valuable life lessons like kindness and fairness.
3. Nurtures Positive Behaviours
Consequently, kids will start to develop positive behaviours because loved ones influence them. Research has shown that children who ate regular meals with their families performed better in school. Furthermore, adolescents who spent more time with their parents tended not to abuse alcohol. This is a great opportunity for you to role model positive behaviour with being responsible with alcohol yourself. Maybe ask yourself: Do I need another drink? Do I need a drink now? Maybe have that drink later in the day rather than early. Do not use; “ I am on holidays I deserve it” particularly if there have been passed issues around your anger when you do drink. Lead by example. (Showing our boys how to become good men)
4. Creates memories
Another reason for having family time is to make memories. Children share more about their lives in these situations that if you ask them ‘What happened in school today?
5. Healthy Lifestyle
Also, your lifestyle will become healthier than before. Family members will remind you to have nutritious meals. As mention above, maybe consider postponing that next drink.
Ways to spend time with Family over Xmas
1. Spend time with your children
- Make it a point to spend time with your kids. You do not need to go out of your way. Sit down for dinner so you can have family conversations. Going out with them for walks after dinner or a game of cricket in the backyard will allow you to teach them life lessons.
- Children love fixing broken items. These may seem like tedious tasks, but curious kids love them. They want to see what lies under the faulty kitchen sink. Ask them to give you a hand without making it sound like a chore. Its about having fun and finding ways to spend time together.
- Reading together with your kids. Besides improving their language skills, you can use the time to share sound values with them.
- If you are in a situation where you struggle for time due to work or the kids are with their other parent send them a text message and let them know you are thinking about them.
2. Get in touch with your teenagers
- Growing teens often feel that their parents step over their boundaries. But all is not lost.
- Take the time to talk to your teenagers while driving them somewhere. It is convenient and allows them to share the goings-on in their lives. Another way to connect with them is through social media.
- Have chats with them over the social media app they are into e.g. “Whats app” and step into their lives. It is the way they make sense of the modern world around them.
- Teens may go through growing pains and are a handful. That said, they love to volunteer. Getting them to do volunteer work allows them to make a difference. It also lets you spend quality time with them.
3. Remember your parents
- Don’t forget your parents; elderly parents feel lonely. If you do not live with your parents, give them a call. Doing this takes no time at all. It is always special for a parent to get a call from a child.
- Plan to have a meal with them; invite them over or go and visit with the kids and offer to cook a meal for them.
4. Make time for your spouse
- Your spouse is the most important person in your life. If you cannot be with them due to circumstances, try and keep in touch with him or her with a few text messages throughout the day and turn your mobile phone off when you are alone with him/her. A great routine to get into is to try and start the day together either with having breakfast or a quick cup of coffee.
- Another great way to spend time with your spouse without taxing yourselves is to exercise together. Having a nightly jog or walking in the park is a wonderful way to spend quality time with your significant other. These suggestions are about making time to connect with your partner.
5. Stay in touch with your relatives
Remember the aunts and uncles who may annoy you? Or the in-laws you try and avoid. Spending time with them may help you more than you realize. As well; support and encourage your spouse to see his/her family; despite your frustrations and dislikes. Put the negative judgements and the past on the shelf; this is about making it a magical Christmas not just for the kids but for the whole family.
Spending time with family is important because it may benefit each member in more ways than you realize. If you have suggestions, do leave them in the comments on the Facebook page.
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