Reflecting on the Count Down to Christmas (extended version)

Posted By Catherine Burrell on Dec 18, 2017 |

With just over a week until the big day, all of a sudden the festive buzz is back!


It only seems two minutes since people were planning Christmas 2016 and once again, everyone has stepped up the pace in preparation for this year’s festivities.

Cafés and restaurants have reintroduced mulled wine and mince pies to their menus.  In the background, The Pogues, ‘Fairytale of New York’ can be heard over friend’s excited chatter.  All signs reinforcing Christmas is on its way.

Since being a little girl, our family tradition involved waking early on Christmas morning to open presents left from Santa followed by going to Church to celebrate Jesus’ birthday and remember those less fortunate.  As a mum of two fun-loving boys, it’s important to me that they are brought up knowing December 25th is an important day that represents the birth of Jesus.  All around the world, people will celebrate Christmas in their own way.



Recent years has seen the introduction of Cyber Monday and Black Friday – pressure to buy more than is often necessary.  Advertisements on television and shop windows, displaying ‘this years most wanted toy’ are constant distractions that can sometimes be a challenge when trying to teach children the true meaning of Christmas.



So what are the benefits to preparing our children for Christmas?


1.  An approach we have adopted whenever Christmas draws near is that, ‘Santa has a lot of children that he delivers presents to around the world,’ followed by, ‘now think carefully, what 3 things would you really like to ask Santa for?’


This has put a stop to the yearly ‘Shopping List to Santa’, copied on impulse from the toy section of one of many catalogues, making our boys think carefully about what they ‘really’ would like.  This is something that has been a success, eliminating pressures to over spend as they write a modest letter to Santa.



“In our house, Christmas is a season that gets a lot of mentions throughout the year.  It is not uncommon to find us watching an early morning Christmas film in July.  Sometimes played on repeat, two favourites are The Polar Express and Arthur Christmas.”


2. Visual reminders:  Knowledge and experience both personally and professionally provides us with the evidence that excitable children get more tired and emotional just in time for the end of term.  With the normal routine of school altered to accommodate rehearsals for Christmas plays, concerts and parties, for many children and staff, this can be a stressful time.  For others, being involved in all the hustle and bustle leading up to Christmas is exciting and the festive celebrations are something to look forward to.


Important to remember… whilst it is exciting , often due to so many disruption from the daily routine can mean meltdowns and outbursts which might not be the norm for your child.


Being able to recognise the triggers is especially helpful and something that provides us with evidence of times in which we can support our children when similar situations arise.


 “Unlike adults, children are unable to grasp the concept of time and waiting for Santa can seem like a lifetime.  As an adult when you are waiting for something important to arrive you are aware how frustrating it can be at times.”


A visual aid to count down the days can help with reducing unwanted stress and anxiety, repeated questions and worries about what is happening whilst waiting for Christmas to arrive.  The idea of a ‘Jolly Old Chap’ called Santa Claus, who as children we are told, ‘he comes when you are sleeping, he’ll know if you’re awake’ coming down the chimney on Christmas Eve, ‘so be good for goodness sake!’  Straight away I am able to count numerous children, young people AND adults who would find this difficult to understand and anxiety provoking.



Note – Be mindful when talking to children about Christmas, give them time to talk about any unhelpful thoughts or feelings they may have and what this might look like to others.



3. Advent Books:  At times, we all wish we were Mary Poppins or Superwoman.  The reality is whilst trying to juggle family life, work, home, school and other commitments, 24 Advent books are just not going to be wrapped in time for the 1st December.  This year I am aware of all the additional challenges that life has brought, because of this I am even more determined that we ‘make time for family time’.


A question often asked in our house when getting ready for holiday’s or big occasions is, ‘Mummy, how many sleeps?’  Instead of knocking myself for not being the ‘Best Mummy on Facebook’ this year I have decided to turn my advent books around!



Similar to the visual clock, using Christmas stories with the boys is a visual aid that helps to demonstrate the number of nights we have left until Christmas Day.

Even if it is for just 10 minutes each night, it encourages us to sit down together as a family before bedtime.

Re visiting old books and putting numbers on each book.  Two ways, to encourage the youngest to begin recognising his numbers and the oldest to increase his reading skills.  As of last night in our house we had ’10 sleeps to go’ … and as of now are counting down. ?



“Remember it’s never too late to try something and you never know what positive impact it might just have…”


So in summary…

Knowledge and experience reminds me that whilst the festive holiday is a time to kick back and look forward to time spent with family and friends, for some it can also be a time that brings about an array of different emotions and memories.

Demonstrating acts of human kindness, not only helps people to start being more socially aware of the need to think of others.  Likewise it encourages reflection, challenging thoughts and asking questions that may have been afraid to ask previously.  Questioning what is important to us whilst planting seeds of kindness, faith in humanity and the gift of Christmas to those less fortunate than ourselves. 


So with ’10 sleeps to go’, let the countdown begin…


Wishing you all a very Merry and Peaceful Christmas!


Best Wishes, Sunflower Cognitive Therapies.