My top tips for a stress-free Christmas

If you bought a copy of this month's Practical Parenting magazine you  may have seen a few tips from me on how to have a stress-free family Christmas. But if you haven't I just thought I'd share them with you here – and I'd love to hear yours, too:

*Don’t worry about everything being ‘perfect’
Christmas can be a stressful time for families – not just because of money, but because you're spending so much time together. If you try to make everything ‘perfect’ you’ll simply add to the pressure. So take it easy on yourself and try not to fret too much. If you’re doing the cooking, you don’t need to make cranberry/bread/brandy sauce from scratch, it doesn’t matter if the vegetables and side dishes are ready prepared or come out of a microwave. The most important thing is being together as a family and enjoying the day.

*Write down your timings
This is a tip I picked up from Nigella Lawson and it really works. Write down what sort of time you’re planning to eat, and then work backwards to find out what time everything needs to be in the oven. That way you can set the timer for whenever you need to put another dish in, you don’t need to spend all your time in the kitchen – and everything should be cooked perfectly.

*Stick to your child’s usual routine.
We've had quite a few Christmases in our house where the children have ended up asleep at the table (and in one case, with their face actually in their dinner). If you want your child to be able to make it through to Christmas dinner, let them have their afternoon nap as usual, and plan the timing of the meal around them. The grown-ups can keep going with canapés and snacks. And if you feel like a nap too, have one! Your guests will understand.

*Babies and little children don’t need lots of presents
I know, I know that there's a natural temptation to spoil your baby on Christmas Day – after all, it's their first Christmas! But it’s often said that babies are more interested in wrapping paper and boxes than the presents themselves – and it’s true! Trust me, if you ‘overwhelm’ your child with gifts they’ll quickly lose interest anyway. A few carefully chosen toys/games are all they really need. And don’t forget if you shop via KidStart you get money back for your child’s bank account or trust fund every time you shop.

*Buy a bumper pack of assorted batteries.
Inevitably someone will give your baby or child a fantastic, brightly coloured toy that they can’t wait to play with – but batteries won’t be included. So make sure you have a pack of assorted batteries (kept out of reach of little hands, of course) at the ready. This will save you from temper tantrums on Christmas Day. Yours, as well as theirs.

written by Liz Jarvis