Inside: Are you longing for a slow, simple Christmas with your kids? Get 6 tips to simplify your Christmas traditions, so you can actually enjoy the Christmas season (instead of collapse at the end)!
I remember vividly the day I sat in a circle with a big group of moms discussing the importance of creating traditions for your kids, starting when they are little. As the holiday with the most traditions, Christmas was the central topic of discussion, a discussion that led far, far away from the slow, simple Christmas I craved.
I remember it so well because of the crushing pressure I felt.
What everyone in the room seemed to be saying was, “More, more, more! Without a million Christmas traditions, your kids will be ruined for life!”
When your kids are small and you are barely treading water as a mom, the last thing you need is additional expectations and pressure, especially during Christmas.
And it’s not just you that needs slow and simple: your kids need simple, too.
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The Opposite of Simple Christmas
These moms were tossing around ideas for 25 Days of Christmas Activities. There was a different activity that you HAD to do every single day!
Maybe some moms are over the moon for this stuff, but me? Even with only one kid and one on the way at the time, just the thought of it set my pulse racing and my chest tightening with anxiety.
I know I’m not the only one.
Somehow, our current parenting culture has convinced us that our kids need more: more of us; more activities; more traditions. More. More. More! The busier, the better.
But first, think about how you respond to more, particularly in your schedule.
Your stress level increases. Your temper is shorter. You rarely slow down to enjoy what you’re doing right now because you’re too busy thinking about the next thing you need to do. You’re constantly running down your to-do list in your head, making sure you haven’t forgotten anything.
Your kids feel the same way, just without an adult grid for how to cope with it.
While I do believe that family traditions are valuable, I now know from experience that you don’t need a million traditions to love Christmas.
Kids don’t need a whole lot to have a meaningful Christmas.
After enduring two Decembers hugely pregnant (really, really bad timing), I appreciate simple Christmas traditions more than ever before. Those Decembers, I had so little energy that I was forced to choose our activities wisely: simple Christmas was the only option.
And guess what? I haven’t heard one complaint about those slow, simple Christmas seasons. My kids still loved Christmas just as much.
It’s YOUR Christmas
Here’s the thing: everyone has an opinion on the best way to do this whole parenting gig, including Christmas and every other major holiday and minor detail. Unfortunately, the loudest, most opinionated voices always find the ears of the mom who is most desperate to know how to do it the “right way” – the one who takes those “should’s” deeply to heart.
“Should is how others want us to live our lives.” -Elle Luna
The people sharing all those opinions? They aren’t living your life. They don’t know you, your home, your kids, or your circumstances.
They won’t be the ones running around like a crazy woman this Christmas trying to do ALL. THE. THINGS.
It’s your Christmas. You should decide how to celebrate it – not them.
Of all the times of year to choose simplicity, this is the best, most special time of year to do it. And as a mom of four who has done it both ways, I strongly encourage you to choose the simple Christmas.
Minimalism has taught me that less is more, pretty much always.
Your kids will love Christmas as much as the kids running around to do every Christmas activity known to man, and you will truly be able to enjoy the Christmas season (and not collapse with exhaustion in January saying, “Thank God, it’s over!”).
6 Tips for a Simple Christmas with Kids
1. Do what you love.
Do you and your spouse have Christmas traditions you love? Make one of each a priority.
After all, as we like to remind our kids, “We came first, you know!”
2. Listen carefully to what your kids look forward to.
Kids may say that they want to do everything, but if you listen carefully, you can usually hear which events are their favorites. Talk with them in November about what they are excited about for Christmas. Do they align with your favorites? Perfect! Simple Christmas just got easier.
If they list several things, try to get them to prioritize. Choose their top two or three traditions they would really miss if you didn’t do them. At the end of the day, you need to be the bottom-line decision maker. If it all adds up to be too much, cut the events that take the highest amount of effort that were least loved.
If you feel tons of pressure trying to decide what to cut, remember: there’s always next year. If you have to cut something out, remind your kids (and yourself) that you can always reevaluate next year. It’s not the end of the world.
3. Learn how to say “no.”
When you start having kids, the pressure to say yes to everything increases. Holiday parties, cookie exchanges, gift exchanges, Christmas ornament making, the list goes on.
Remember that you need to decide what is best for you and your family. Does it bring you joy? Is it a “Heck, yes!”? If it’s not, it probably shouldn’t be on your list of activities, unless it is a family event that you cannot possibly miss.
Even then, there’s wiggle room.
For example, once our family grew to six (with four kids six and under at one point), we knew that having a restful, enjoyable, simple Christmas meant saying “no” to travelling to see family every year.
Do I feel a twinge of guilt sometimes? Yes. But it’s the best choice for our family.
4) Outsource whenever possible.
While I do my best not to overschedule December, I do have an extroverted child who loves activities and can handle a bit more in her schedule than I can. If you have kids begging to do more than you want to do, try to compromised by outsourcing those extra activities.
Have a friend offering to host a gingerbread making party at her house? Ask if a child can tag along with supplies.
Does your mom love baking and decorating Christmas cookies with the kids? Let her take that one: you don’t need to do every single Christmas activity on your list with your kids.
5. See the little things as traditions, too.
Sometimes, we only think of the big events that require tons of effort as traditions. But what if the little things were, too?
- Sitting together on the couch at night to enjoy the Christmas lights.
- Christmas music playing in the house every day.
- Making sure Christmas candles are lit daily so the house smells like Christmas.
- Reading Christmas books for kids during your usual read-aloud times.
- Slowing down for Christmas lights on the way home from the grocery store.
- Having candy canes to put in your hot chocolate all season long.
It’s the little things, the simple things that all come together to make Christmas the amazing season that it is – not just the brief, tons of effort events.
6. Don’t be afraid to “try on” a new tradition.
Just because you do something one Christmas does not mean you are committing to it every Christmas. Don’t be afraid to try new things!
This year, we are going to get a puzzle to work on all December long. We are also adding a drive to see Christmas lights through our favorite family-owned amusement park.
Neither of these requires a ton of effort (especially the lights – not getting out of the car with 5 kids plus awesome lights = win), and the puzzle can be passed along to another family.
Try something new if it seems like it will fit your family. Or swap out an older, more stressful tradition for a simpler version.
Simple Christmas with Kids: Final Thoughts
Step back for a minute and think about the things that made Christmas special for you. What do you remember? What made it special?
What do your kids talk about months in advance (if they are old enough to do so)?
If even those things seem like too much, simplify them even more.
Gingerbread houses don’t need to be homemade (they really, really don’t). Buy a simple kit, and let them at it!
You don’t need to buy and put together everything your kids need to make their own ornaments. There are people who love doing that kind of thing: buy a kit to make your life easier and your Christmas less stressful.
Let go of the guilt and simplify your Christmas. Your kids will love it just as much. Promise.