Susie Robbins, mother of three energetic boys under the age of seven, shares some tips for enjoying the festive season.

[New City Magazine – December 2021, page 20]

‘This the season to be… Jolly? Stressed? Excited? Exhausted? All of the above, perhaps? The festive season seems to begin earlier and earlier each year, and with it the pressure to make everything magical and picture-perfect builds relentlessly.

I recently had ‘The worst ever cold’, as dubbed by BBC news, and yes it was awful and really knocked me for six. However, there was a moment when, whilst coughing and wheezing, I thought ‘something about this feels like Christmas’. I hadn’t noticed until then that I am normally ill during Christmas. In hindsight I had put it down to teaching the long Autumn term and mixing with hundreds of teenagers at a time when seasonal illnesses are rife and spreading like wildfire. However, once I left teaching, I would still suffer the annual illness – but who has time to be poorly when there’s magic and memories to be made?

Christmas is a wonderful time, a very special period where we have the rare opportunity to spend quality time with our loved ones and soak up all those precious moments together (Covid permitting…). Isn’t it ironic then that for the most part we spend the time dashing from pillar to post, trying to see everybody and do everything, juggling schedules and responsibilities from one day to the next until we collapse in a heap somewhere around the 27th December exhausted and burnt out?

How can we have a Christmas that is magical for the children without overspending in terms of energy, time, and money?


Firstly plan ahead and fill it with activities you really want to do, and which make you feel good too. You can do anything, but not everything, and never is this truer than at Christmas when demand and expectation is high. You can be a good person and say no. By creating and maintaining boundaries you ensure that you can give the best of yourself to those around you.


Factor in downtime. We all need regular time to rest and to decompress, including children, even during the festive season. Christmas is an incredibly stimulating time – the lights and decorations, the music blaring from every shop, the carol concerts, nativity plays, Christmas fayres and special ‘make a decoration with Granny’ days at school. It’s disruptive to our children’s normal routine, and for many this can trigger anxiety and worry. Allowing them some slower afternoons or lazy pyjama mornings may prevent the overtired, overwhelmed, and overstimulated meltdowns later in the day.

Simple pleasures

You may assume that your children really want to go to an all-singing all-dancing fully immersive North Pole experience. But they might find this overwhelming which drains their cup more than it fills it. Perhaps they might find it more exciting to catch a glimpse of Father Christmas turning on the town lights. Hearing a Salvation Army brass band playing in the high street might leave them with much more joy than going to a two-hour long carol concert followed by mince pies. You may need to spend a little time observing your child and really tuning in to their love language to discover what fills them up with joy (there are five types of love language: service, gifts, affirmation, time and touch).

Social media switch off

Social media is the biggest culprit for making us believe that we need to do everything and be everything to everyone, at any cost. Before you embark upon an expensive family ‘must-do’ experience ask yourself if you want to do it, rather than feeling like you’ll be missing out if you don’t. Will it be good for your family? If so, enjoy. If you’re not sure there’s a chance that all the picture-perfect photos that we are relentlessly served as part of our social media experience is making you feel like you should want to, rather than you might want to. Log out for a little while or give yourself a strict social media diet and you’ll find new clarity, and lots more time too!

Quality over quantity

Try to make your interactions with your family quality. Take your time to talk, to listen, to be together. These make special moments, where you can truly love each other rather than losing your time charging from one engagement to the next and not being able to savour each other in the process.

I hope that these tips leave you merry and bright, rather than frazzled and fried. We feel most loved and loving when we truly connect with others and connection takes time. To that end I leave you with the words of Paul Simon:

Slow down, you move too fast,
You got to make the morning last.
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feeling groovy.

Photo: © courtesy of Susannah Robbins

See also:

Read the 1st part of this series: Play theory

Read the 2nd part of this series: Learning through play

Read the 3rd part of this series: Baby play

Read the 4th part of this series: Purposeful praise

Read the 5th part of this series: Resilience

Read the 6th part of this series: Summer Play

Read the 7th part of this series: School ready

Read the 8th part of this series: Tantrums

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