Homebuilders - ’Tis the season …

Varying emotions, from bliss to mortal dread, can be activated by the approach of Christmas. Expectations that are pitched too high can rob us of the joy of the holiday season, leaving a trail of disappointment, stress and debt in its wake.

Getting clear about our values can help us keep our expectations at a realistic level. If Covid 19 has taught us anything, it is the value of each other and the time we have together. Children, and most human beings, seek connection with each other, and if we keep this value at the forefront of our holiday plans then things can be kept quite simple.

Friendly family fun and festive food can be the focus of Christmas Day, along with meaningful rituals for those for whom religious observance is central to the season. To reduce stress, gifts could be kept below an agreed, manageable cost. Or they could be hand-made, pre-loved or “found” objects. Children who participate in creating gifts for others double their Christmas pleasure, experiencing the fun of giving as well as receiving, and can learn valuable skills along the way.

The inevitable cost and work of a festive meal are more manageable when shared. Everyone has a chance to showcase their special contribution rather than the hostess (Oops! Did I say something sexist?) of the day shouldering the whole load of meal preparation and presentation. For some of us it can be scary and challenging to stand aside from traditional roles and let the day flow, rather than stressing to make it go exactly to plan.

Remember to incorporate games and activities as a memorable part of Christmas Day. Silly is good. Play and laughter are the building blocks of family bonds and happy memories.

Speaking of activities, select some which reinforce the value of human connection, to create worthwhile and memorable experiences for your children these holidays. As adults, our warmest memories of family time are often around activities that are outside, in nature and with a parent. We are spoilt for choice in New Zealand where so much is available at little or no cost. Many of us have easy access to beach and bush, or even to a back lawn where a tent can be pitched for a family sleep-out, maybe with the highlight of watching a moonrise or a sunrise. City dwellers with kids may be able to access parks, playgrounds and reserves for activities such as picnics, or for seed hunting, bird spotting or imaginary adventures. Such experiences increase our children's ability to be conscious of and to notice and appreciate the world around them.

On rainy days and “home” days, dedicate some time to indoor games, to reading stories, to telling stories of your own childhood or of your children's grandparents and great-grandparents. This can give children a sense of belonging and personal history. Screens are fine in short bursts, or to gain parents a bit of peace, but devices tend to isolate from the family, whereas shared activity and storytelling are great ways of strengthening those all-important connections.

Terry Healey, Support Worker