Agony Aunt: How can I cope alone in the run up to Christmas?

Planning is key to  a happy and stress-free family holiday.
Planning is key to a happy and stress-free family holiday.

Q:I struggle to deal with the kids and I’m dreading the coming fortnight. My two are both under 10. My wife has to work over Christmas so childcare will all be down to me. Do you have any coping suggestions?

A:Although it is always portrayed as a wonderful time for family to get together, there is also a lot of pressure for everything to be ‘perfect’. If you don’t normally share the childcare try to organise your days. It will be easier for you to find time to relax too.Set out your fortnight and ‘pencil in’ the key days where you already know what’s planned. Ask the kids what they’d like to do and for their help in planning your time off. Try to arrange play dates. Kids tend to entertain themselves with friends, especially at someone else’s house.Plan their meals and have a ready supply of healthy snacks and drinks. Online shopping comes in very handy. Being organised will help prevent the perils of them getting “hangry” (hungry/angry), which is not a pretty sight. It’s probably a good idea to let the kids get some fresh air each day. Walks to the park or even just round the block can be a good energy burner. The more that you tire them out in the day, the longer your evenings will be undisturbed, allegedly. The cinema and soft play centres can be expensive, so plan them as a special treat. DVD afternoons with a bowl of popcorn or even just family time can make memories. Don’t forget that older relatives love to see the kids too. A bit of grandparent / grandchildren bonding time would be beneficial for both sides.Try to keep bedtimes and wake-ups to usual times so it’s not so hard to swing back into the routine once school restarts. Explain to your kids what is expected of them. Let them know that it is your holiday too. They should be aware that their help is needed in keeping the “peace” and that how they behave affects everyone’s time off. “Elf on the shelf “ is a great American tradition that has settled well over here with parents and children alike. During the day, the elf monitors the child’s behaviour then flies back each night to the North Pole to report to Santa. Every morning the elves return and watch the child try to find them as they can end up in the strangest of places, certainly not where they had been left the night before. If you do start to lose control or your temper, try walking into another room to calm down before returning to resolve things. Pick your battles.Not everything will go to plan, but with a bit of organisation everyone should be able to enjoy!