How to have a happy family Christmas

Stop!  Yes you, over there buying endless gifts online…and you, panicking over your homemade Christmas puddings and renaming the festive season ‘Stressmas’…Stop now!  Make a cup of tea, (chocolate cake optional), sit down and start reading.  You’ll soon regain a feeling of calm and leave with a smile on your face….

Christmas should be a time to relax and enjoy our family life.  Obviously, many people have to make long journeys to see loved ones, while thousands more don’t have anyone special to spend Christmas with.  I can’t change certain things but I do hope I can inspire you to be happier this Christmas.  
In essence, I’m spreading a little love!

While my role as a personal trainer, massage therapist and nutrition consultant can help you achieve specific goals, more importantly I believe in overall well-being – particularly at a time of year when we are guilty of piling the pressure onto our own shoulders.
Today’s post takes a sideways step from nutrition and offers some ideas to ensure your family is a happy, healthy, relaxed one this Christmas.  

Keep it simple!

If you have young children you do not need to spend hundreds, or even thousands, of pounds on piles of presents they don’t need.  What is the most precious gift you can give your child?  Your Time!

I have many happy childhood memories playing games such as Connect 4, Ker-Plunk and Top Trumps with my parents and brother at Christmas or on wet winter weekends.  As a parent I’ve been as guilty as the rest of you of falling into the trap of trying to make Christmas better through material gifts – only to be disappointed when happiness levels don’t soar.  

In our house this Christmas we’re stripping things back; buying less but spending more time together!

As a family we’ve decided that we really don’t need any more electrical gadgets and want to create
happy memories through shared experiences.  
Perhaps you think that sounds sickly sweet?  All very well for the blogging mum with her two model children?!  Well, it all comes down to perspective and deciding what you want most out of life.  

What makes you smile?

What makes you laugh?
What makes you and your children giggle uncontrollably?
What gives you a sense of contentment?
What makes you happy?

You do not need a large budget or perfect children to achieve happiness at Christmas or during the rest of year.  In fact, relaxing and keeping things simple often helps improve behaviour in our little ones.

Balloon Therapy!

Apart from seeing a Christmas tree with brightly wrapped presents around it on Christmas morning, a room full of blown-up balloons is guaranteed to put a smile on young children’s faces.  Inflate the balloons the night before and attach left over paper ribbon.
Balloons can also be used in fun, family games:
Take two cheap pairs of ladies tights and 12 balloons. Divide your family into two teams and give each 1 pair of tights and 6 balloons.  The winning team is the first to make, and wear, a pair of reindeer antlers!

Take part in an activity together!

Ice skating is becoming more and more popular with small rinks popping up every December in shopping centres, in front of Cathedrals and in leisure centres.  Start kids when they’re young as they have a lower centre of gravity and are generally fearless!  Remember the expression: 
‘Every day, do something that frightens you.’  What better reason to get out and try something new?  You’ll spend precious time together, burn calories and, best of all, you’ll laugh!

Cook together!

Get in the kitchen with your kids and create some Christmas magic.  Simple fairy cakes can be transformed with a little icing, plastic characters, sweets, glitter or sprinkles.  If cooking isn’t really your thing, just buy a ready made plain Victoria sponge or chocolate cake and let the little ones decorate it.  

A simple packet of round, plain biscuits can also be transformed with some icing and a few sweets and edible glitter!  

The best Christmas children’s treat I’ve seen so far this year is this one of strawberry and cream Santas.

Click here for Strawberry Santa recipe

Plan a Christmas budget and stick to it by shopping with cash!

It’s quite simple really – just decide how much you wish to spend on family and friends, take the cash out of the bank and go shopping!  Take advantage of special discount evenings where all purchases have 10%-30% off.  Don’t be pushed into taking out store cards that have higher interest rates than most credit cards.  Take advantage of 3 for 2 offers only if you have a use for all three products!  By avoiding debt at Christmas you’ll instantly shift all the new year stress and be able to relax over the festive season without a big grey cloud looming above.
Visit for shopping and money saving advice.

Support local businesses 

Do your part for your local economy by buying gifts from small local traders, Christmas markets and farm shops.  You don’t have to go as far as boycotting the internet completely, after all, there are some great deals to be had…but shopping locally means you have the opportunity to handle goods first, to see whether they are really worth the money and also whether they generate a positive energy.  If we buy gifts with love, choosing items that we believe will bring joy to others, then we can all spread a little more happiness this Christmas.

Buy fresh, local produce for your Christmas dinner

Have you tried locally reared meat or poultry?  Used local free range eggs?  Bought hand made sausages from a local farm shop?  Tasted fresh bread from a local bakery?
At Christmas time many families go completely mad and stack their trolleys high with endless supplies of chocolates, biscuits, sweets, fizzy drinks and alcohol. Not only is this bad for our health, it’s also bad for our wallets and stress levels.  Keep Christmas dinner to a sensible size as overeating will only cause sleepiness and irritability later in the day.  An overfed, tired, stressed parent is not going to give their children the best attention!  

A few tips for staying healthy, alert and happy on Christmas day:

Start the day with a healthy breakfast of fruit, yogurt, wholemeal toast or eggs with fresh juices, herbal teas and coffee if desired.

Avoid alcohol while cooking – save that first glass for just before lunch when your guests arrive or when you sit at the table with your family.  Drinking on an empty stomach only encourages overeating later at mealtime.

Play a game with your children, or open a present, between main course and dessert – that way you give your body a chance to digest the main meal and  the opportunity to tell you that it’s actually full already and the Christmas pudding and brandy butter can wait!

Drink plenty of water throughout the day – and alternate alcoholic drinks with soft ones.  Ensure your children drink plenty too, as excited, busy little people will probably not notice they’re even thirsty.

Give your children healthy snacks before the main meal – to avoid irritability, moaning and cries of ‘how long ’til dinner mum?’, make sure you give your children a healthy snack mid morning before the inevitable ‘late’ lunch.  Try fruit, vegetables, raisins, nuts and seeds, toast or a protein rich snack like eggs or cheese with fruit or veg.  

Share the cooking – let your children help with the peeling and chopping of vegetables and don’t stress about the size and shapes of the pieces!  

Share the prep and service too – let your children lay the table, make name places, empty the dishwasher and fold napkins… this will make your children feel like they’ve played a part in the day and make you feel less of a servant!

Do you remember the questions I asked earlier?
What makes you smile, laugh or giggle uncontrollably? 
What makes you feel happy and content?

Take a moment to consider how you can turn your Christmas into a more enjoyable, more memorable and less stressful event this year.

Perhaps this will help…

Spend less money + more time = Happy children

Happy children + laughter = Happy mummy
Happy mummy + lower bills = Happy daddy
Yummy food + happy family = Best Christmas ever!

Until next week,


Post Author: Lorraine Pannetier

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