‘Tis the season to be jolly

19th October 2022 Parenting ,

There are some people who start prepping for Christmas in October, whilst others scramble around the brandy butter aisle at 10pm on Christmas Eve. The former will probably be smiling, excited and slightly smug (only 10 days to go!). The latter will not (only 10 days to go).


The difficulty we have with Christmas is expectations, especially if it comes at a time when everyone is tired. Pumped into our sitting rooms from around mid-November, we’re told to spend because it will make our children happy. This is a strategy that works well for the economy but it’s not so good for money-poor parents.

Expectations also hit us from within the home; some in the guise of tradition. ‘It wouldn’t be Christmas, if we didn’t have home-made cake… and a pudding… and pies.’ And then the kids start. ‘I want…’ ‘I can’t wait to get…’ or ‘how come they get to do that and we don’t’.

Most of us want to please our loved ones, especially at Christmas. Disappointing them can make us feel incredibly guilty. But this guilt is caused by our attachment to an external judgment system, which can influence who we are and what we do – the TV, tradition and friends. You go along with what you feel you should do; in spite of knowing, it’s just not right for you or your family. Last year, Britons borrowed £1.5 billion in loans and credit cards – how much of that was Guilt Money?

Try this 6 step framework to re-design a Christmas, which reflects YOUR family’s reality.

Step One

Instead of finding out what everyone wants for Christmas, find out what they need from Christmas. Ask yourself the question – if I were to choose my perfect Christmas, what would it be? Then ask yourself, ‘Why? What would that do for me?’ For example, I want everyone to be happy because that will help me feel calm and relaxed. What I need is to be calm and relaxed. It’s an important difference. Discover what your children need from Christmas by asking the same questions. Then list what you all need. (Our family list would include needs like ‘exciting surprises, restful inactivity, exercise, being together, etc).

Step Two

Now here’s the chance to find creative solutions to your perfect – realistic – family Christmas. Get everyone to think of ideas. The more the better. Ask one of the kids to write them down. Keep this step snappy and full of energy. The golden rule is that you MUST NOT pass judgement on any solution that is offered. Even if an idea is, “Christmas on a Caribbean beach”, it must be kept on the list. Try to come up with 10-15 solutions.

Step Four

Now judge each solution against whether everyone’s needs are being met. If one person’s need is not met, then cross that solution out. Christmas in the Caribbean will probably go – if someone’s need is to ‘keep in budget’. Other solutions may work with a bit of tweaking. Or a number of solutions, put together, could work for everyone.

Choose the solution, or the combination, with everyone’s agreement. If you can’t all agree, go back to Step 2 and think of some more ideas.

Make it happen!

Decide who is going to do what and by when. Spread the load and encourage each family member to contribute to the day. And then enjoy it. After the day is over – how did it go? Did everyone get what they needed? What about next time?

I hope these tips help to give you a more relaxing and joyful Christmas.

This article was previously published in the East Anglian Daily Times (Archant Newspapers) Family Section on Friday December 14, 2017

Sign up to the Stronger Relationships newsletter and get a quarterly update sent directly to your inbox.