PARENTING TODAY: Plan on organized chaos this Christmas

I love Christmas. Most kids love Christmas. Now, what can you do to make it wonderful for you and your whole family?

Whatever holiday you celebrate at this time of year, you can make it work if you just plan. But not a typical plan.

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The answer is to plan on organized chaos. Sounds strange but it works like a charm.

If I were to tell you to develop a schedule and have Christmas Day run like a well-oiled machine you would know that I was crazy and had never, ever been anywhere near an excited child on a holiday.

On the other hand, when Christmas is totally disorganized it becomes a frenzy of shattered nerves, tantrums and tears and a decision that you will never, ever celebrate a holiday again. At least not until the kids are adults.

One of the charms of a special holiday is putting aside some of the regular expectations and enjoying the unique attributes of the day.

I mean, how often do you actually get up in the morning and discover that gifts have been left under a well-decorated tree?

If Christmas isn’t your particular holiday think about whatever unusual rituals are associated with holidays you like to celebrate.

The trick is to figure out where the line is between the unusual and the necessary usual. Children do not do well when they are tired or hungry.

So consider mealtimes and naptimes. It’s a good idea to have these at the regular time and have the meals be nutritious to offset the sweets you just know they will be eating.

Think through the day. What time are they allowed to get up in the morning? Excited children waiting for the arrival of Santa can declare daybreak at ridiculously early hours. Once they are out of bed, what can they get into immediately?

Most families I speak to tell me that the kids can open their stockings and eat the orange in the toe but have to wait to get to the gifts. This gives Mom and Dad a chance to make coffee, without which they will be out of control.

Whether you tackle the gifts before or after breakfast is up to you. The challenge with gift opening is to control the frenzy. Allow each of the children the chance to hand out a few gifts. Then the whole group watches the recipients open the present.

This keeps the kids busy and maintains a more stately pace. Make sure you have paper and pencil ready to keep a list of who sent gifts to your children.

The families that seem to have the most fun on Christmas make it a point to get outside with the kids for some exercise and fresh air.

It can be as simple as going for a walk around the neighbourhood. Or you can go up to the mountains with skis or toboggans.

Naps can be a challenge, but worth the effort. A good system is to declare a quiet time for everyone. No one has to sleep, but it’s time to look at a book or listen to music. Then those who are tired will fall asleep and everyone else will have had a nice rest. Not a bad idea.

When meals and naps are planned, most kids can handle the holiday activities. Just be a bit vigilant.

When you see your little one just about to lose it, offer a diversion. Take her with you to help in the kitchen, offer a quick hug or help the kids change their activity. A little prevention can save a major meltdown.

Plan the day, pay attention. Then relax and enjoy. It’s your holiday too.

Kathy Lynn is the author of Vive la Différence, Who’s In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I’d Ever Have to Leave Home. If you want to read more, sign up for her informational newsletter at

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