Any parent of a toddler knows the difference between a two-year-old and a three-year-old at Christmas time. Sometime between those two Christmases, a developmental jump makes them far more aware of what is going on around them, and suddenly Father Christmas turns up in conversation. They may beg to decorate a tree after seeing one at nursery, or they may start talking about presents and Christmas cards. In any case, this is the Christmas when you need to start taking special precautions to help them cope with the excitement and tension of the holidays.
The fact of the matter is that your child is less able to cope with ongoing excitement than an adult – or even an older child. Setting up the Christmas tree early on in the month of December – or worse, in November – is a great way to get the Christmas spirit in early, but it also starts winding the tension about Christmas. This means you need to be prepared to cope with a child whose ability to cope has been exceeded by the very effect of time itself.
Some families have traditions of keeping the presents under the tree, only for Santa to whisk them away the night before Christmas Eve and return them the next night. This can be a wonderful way to do things, but very small children – toddlers, say – are not always capable of coping with this method. As they like to unwrap presents when they see them, it can be really frustrating for them to have to act as if the presents aren’t there at all. If you really are attached to this tradition, put the presents out on the night of the 22nd, allowing your kids a single day – the 23rd – with the presents out under the tree. Then Santa can pick them up that night and bring them back the next one. This can really make your life and your child’s life a lot easier.
Advent calendars, candy canes and chocolate baubles make for quite a sweet time of the year. Sugar can cause a lot of hyperactive behaviour and madness. Of course, Christmas just involves spoiling the children a little, too – but if you take it too far you could be making trouble for yourself down the line. The after-Christmas period, when the supply of sweets dwindles suddenly to its pre-Christmas levels, can be really hard on children as it is. Don’t compound the issue and make it more difficult for your child to focus and behave by overdoing it in these final days of the run-up to the holidays! While this doesn’t mean you can’t buy any sweets, it’s a good idea to put them aside until the holiday or – alternatively – bake them into some Christmassy baked-goods such as candy cane-encrusted fudge and similar items. The act of making something will help give your little guy something to do (be prepared for a messy kitchen and to let him or her lick every spoon!) and mitigate the effect of the sugar a little.
Helping little kids through the holiday season is easier if you realise that, for them, it is quite a confusing time of exceedingly tight anticipation and confounding ritual! You’re sure to help him or her enjoy the Christmas period more and, in turn, make things smoother for yourself and your entire family.