How to handle everyone’s expectations at Christmas

The children are bouncing off the walls, the relatives are inadvertently contributing to your stress levels, and the presents you bought online still aren’t here, let alone wrapped. You feel like hibernating until January with all the mince pies and chocolates and only emerging once everyone’s back to normal. Or is that just me? The Christmas holidays can be hard for adoptive families. There are strong emotions flowing and so many preconceived ideas of what things ‘should’ be like that it is easy to feel overwhelmed. But with a plan, and a lot of deep breaths, it is possible to handle people’s expectations at Christmas without going bonkers. (Most of the time.)

Managing expectations at Christmas

You (an excellent place to start)

Remember to take time for self-care. This could be locking yourself in your room and listening to a podcast (recommendations here), or if you have childcare, going for a coffee with a book to read. Whatever it is you need to decompress. (Need ideas? Start here.) It is tempting to rush around trying to keep everyone else happy and calm, but please don’t try to do this on an empty tank.

It is so much easier to stay regulated and to cope with all the drama of Christmas if you have had enough sleep and have met your own needs first. Prioritise self-care, however hard this might sound, and it will help save your sanity, which in turn benefits everyone around you. Even if all you do is (1) make sure you go to bed at a sensible time, (2) drink enough water and (3) take short breaks to be on your own and breathe throughout the day, that’s going to help.

With a plan, and a lot of deep breaths, it is possible to handle people's expectations at Christmas without going bonkers. (Most of the time.) Click To Tweet

Your significant other and/or supportive friends

If you are parenting as a couple, find the time to talk through your expectations as soon as possible, even if you’ve had a dozen Christmasses together before. Who is doing the shopping? The cooking? The wrapping? Taking the children out on a specific day to give the other a break? We find it helps to have this conversation before the end of term and to plan some breaks for each other.

If you’re a single parent, who can you find to allow you to take time for self-care during the holidays? Will someone take the children to the cinema for you, for instance, so you can have an afternoon off? Ask now and get it on your calendar.

It is tempting to rush around trying to keep everyone else happy and calm, but please don't try to do this on an empty tank. Click To Tweet

Your child(ren)

Our children really love having a schedule for the holidays. They can visualise the number of days until each event, they know who will be where, and they can make requests to fill in any gaps. To make this easier, you can download an editable Christmas holiday schedule here (MS Word file). We also find it helpful to talk through the whole holidays at the end of term, and then explain exactly where they will be and who with every few days,

Extended family

The expectations of extended family can be the hardest to manage, especially at Christmas. Most mean well, but some may be set in their ways and find it hard to understand that many adoptive families need to be a bit more flexible about things. If you haven’t got hold of it yet, my post 5 easy ways to help an adoptive family at Christmas is great for sharing with extended family members, and includes a free printable PDF that’s perfect for subtly (or not-so-subtly) leaving where they will see it.

It is so much easier to stay regulated and to cope with all the drama of Christmas if you have had enough sleep and have met your own needs first. Prioritise self-care. Click To Tweet

Emergency meltdown strategy

You tried all this stuff. It didn’t stop the most enormous meltdown from happening. Perhaps you’re hiding in the car reading this (that was me on Boxing Day last year, you’re not alone). It is OK. It will pass. Take the time you need, breathe, have a mince pie, and reset. (Hint: hide emergency food in the car for this eventuality – a tube of Pringles works for me).

Emergency strategy: take the time you need, breathe, have a mince pie, and reset (hint: hide emergency food in the car for this eventuality – a tube of Pringles works for me). Click To Tweet

Text/phone someone who you can vent to. Can’t think of anyone? Comment here and I will reply as soon as I can, or jump on Twitter and tag me/DM me there. Sarah Millican’s #joinin Twitter hashtag is also fab if you’re feeling alone at Christmas for whatever reason.

Join the Christmas self-care Twitter chat

I’ll be hosting a Twitter chat for adoptive parents to talk about self care on Boxing Day at 8pm. Come and find me: @HLMeadows and use the hashtag #APselfcarechat to take part.

What’s your opinion?

What is your biggest source of Christmas stress? Which flavour of Pringles will you be hiding in your car? What other emergency strategies have worked for you? Please let me know in the comments below.

Follow:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *