November and December are filled with lots of joyous family events: Christmas preparations, school celebrations and break up parties.
But let’s be honest – this time of year is also pretty stressful and tiring!
Most families’ diaries are chock-a-block with a mounting list of appointments and end-of-year this-and-that.
Whilst you mightn’t be able to change the amount of things on your plate, the experts tell us there are lots of simple things we can do to bring some calm back into our family life when things start to feel out-of-control.
We’ve compiled some of the best advice we’ve found for you here. The good news? It’s all easy to do and you can start right now.
Music in the mornings
Just like a computer needs time to boot up before it can tackle an Excel spreadsheet, our brains need to get active before they can attack the day’s to-do list, says Neurologic Music Therapist Allison Davies. And one of the best ways is with music.
“Research tells us that when we experience music, more of our brain activates than it does when we experience any other thing,” Allison says.
“And this can happen from listening to music, making music, or even just thinking about it…simply listening to music in the mornings as part of your daily routine will help activate your brain and your child’s brain so that everybody can work together more harmoniously in the mornings.
“I recommend choosing songs that your children love, make a playlist, listen to your favourite CD. You could opt for an early morning disco party — just turn on the music and all have a quick dance around the lounge room together.
“A really important element of music is it’s physicality. Movement, dancing, stretching. This, in conjunction with rhythm and melody, absolutely does wonders for getting the brain active and ready to work!” READ MORE
Embrace imperfection and the slow lane
Parenting guru Maggie Dent writes really well about her own epiphany as a 30-something busy mum that she was moving too fast through an unrealistic to-do list. She encourages parents to banish the “busy bug”.
“Seriously there are things you can stop doing – and things you can do less often – and please release the need to be perfect parents,” she says.
“It is impossible to be perfect – embrace the notion that good enough really is good enough. Indeed, allowing our kids to see how mistakes, failures and setbacks are a normal part of life helps build their resilience.
“Before you get stressed about another thing to put on your TO DO list (or in your Excel spreadsheet) relax because tiny changes make a difference.”
Some of the simple family hacks she suggests for busy periods include:
- “Take a few minutes before bedtime for toddlers and older children – step outside and say goodnight to the stars, the moon or the birds.”
- “Create a ‘go slow PJ weekend morning’ – even just once a month. This will bring such a gift of more connectedness and love.” READ MORE TIPS FROM MAGGIE HERE
Give thanks (especially to your child’s teachers!)
If you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed there’s a good chance your child’s teacher is feeling the end-of-year crunch as well.
An email of thanks or a small token of your appreciation for their hard work will make their day – and you’ll feel good too. When teachers and parents work as a team and respect and value each others’ contributions, the winners are our beautiful kids – and it’s never too late to start!
“Building a mutually respectful relationship with your child’s teacher…and viewing each other as partners in the education process builds a wonderful base for future communication and trusting relationships”, says Dr Linda Willis, a lecturer in Curriculum Studies and educational researcher at The University of Queensland. Read more from Dr Willis here and here.
Prioritise Christmas family rituals
Don’t have any? Start some new ones, suggests parenting expert and father-of-six Dr Justin Coulson.
“Christmas is already busy enough. Non-stop events, too much money spent, and frantic 15 km/h driving on jam-packed roads. Gah! Who wants more to do?,” he writes.
“But we can make Christmas meaningful for our families without exhausting our families or ourselves. One of the best and most powerful of these (techniques) is to have family traditions.”
Research shows that “the happiest families have traditions – not just at Christmas, but also throughout the year,” he says.
“Family traditions hep our kids make sense of life. They provide predictability and a sense of security and safety. Most importantly, traditions help our children feel as though they fit in somewhere and traditions protect them from negative outside influences.” READ SOME OF HIS SUGGESTIONS HERE
It’s not rocket science that exercise combats stress and anxiety but when we’re busy it’s easy to let a walk or a workout slide off your family schedule. We won’t bother providing links to the benefits of exercise – the verdict is unanimous! Another common chant from parenting experts is to get the whole family outside as often as you can – nature and fresh air create instant calm.
Keep things in perspective
Family life is busy for parents. It’s often messy, chaotic and hectic. But it’s also joyful – and short.
“Most of us experience moments of extraordinary joy when our children are young,” writes Dr Justin Coulson.
“We seem to be a little less good at finding those moments as our children get to about age three. By the time they’re in their teens it’s even harder. It gets messy in those middle year (from 3 to 23). But there is joy everywhere throughout our parenting lives if we are looking.”