Kids at Christmas: how to keep them calm!

Here are five useful tips to help you share the feel good spirit of the season without your little ones getting too overexcited!

Children, especially babies and toddlers, are at their happiest when they have a familiar daily routine. But Christmas – with all its extra shopping, cooking and travelling to visit family – is not the easiest time of year to stick to regular habits. Here’s how to beat seasonal Christmas stress, with some extra tips from parenting educator and family coach Susan North.

Manage the schedule

  • Try to time your travels to fit in with naptimes, and with older children, take along little activities to stave off boredom during your journey.
  • When we’re on the go it’s easy to resort to sweets and salty snacks. Keep a few healthy snacks and water with you to avoid grumpiness caused by hunger or ‘sugar highs’.
  • Be realistic about how much you can do with the kids in tow. ‘There’s a tendency to overbook,’ says Susan North. ‘Keep a moderate schedule. Activities are meant to be fun and not irritating.’


If you’re travelling long distances, check out our Advice for stress-free travel.

Respect boundaries

  • Don’t give up on your usual routines. Allowing kids to stay up late, eat unhealthily and overschedule their playtime may seem like the easy way out but will most likely result in crabby kids.
  • ‘It’s up to parents to create the boundaries,’ says North. ‘Children like to know what’s expected of them. Being consistent with your standards helps them manage their expectations, develop self-control and patience.’
  • If there’s one or two nights in the holiday when the kids do get to stay up late for a party, make sure your child knows that this is a special exception, a ‘treat’, and get back to usual routines as soon as you can the next day.


Do you usually have trouble getting the kids off to sleep the night before Christmas? Here are some great Bedtime secrets for Christmas Eve to avoid having overtired tots when the big day arrives.

Build anticipation, not stress

  • With extra tasks to be done and money to spend on food and gifts, it’s easy to get stressed ourselves, but North advises that we shouldn’t share our anxieties with our children.
  • ‘It’s difficult to build wonderful anticipation when parents are worrying,’ she says.
  • North also recommends keeping the Christmas build-up short. If you’re the kind of person to gift shop in August, keep this from the kids. ‘Building excitement too early makes it harder to manage children’s emotions for weeks on end. Keep the time frame compressed. Avoid TV commercials and stimuli that stretch out the holiday.’

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Get the kids to Make their own advent calendar the weekend before December 1 so you can take control of when festive fever officially starts!

Make it your holiday

  • ‘Don’t let outside influences hijack your holiday,’ warns North. ‘Parents should resist the powerful commercial forces of Christmas.’
  • Pester power can be challenging with the nonstop ads on TV, billboards, in shops and online. If your kids are begging to go to the toy store, where they can become over-stimulated and frustrated, suggest a calmer way to have fun instead. Let them decorate the tree or plan a holiday meal.
  • North emphasises, ‘It’s your role as a parent to create the holiday that you envision for them; that is the best gift.’


Kids like habits they recognise and learn to love. So Create your own Christmas traditions as a way to build excitement without excessive fuss.

Give to others

  • ‘It’s tempting to bribe children to behave. Don’t give in!’ Says North. ‘However, telling them Santa Claus will leave coal in their stockings if they’re bad only reinforces the “carrot and stick” aspects of Christmas.’
  • Rather than focusing on the ‘give it to me’ spirit, North suggests getting children to think about helping other people, instead. Find a charity to support through school or a local organisation.
  • Encourage the positive and joyful aspects of Christmas and minimise the stressful ones. Your consistency and calm behaviour will help manage their expectations and emotions, and create the Christmas you want for your kids.


We’ve got lots of ideas on other ways you can help Create Christmas magic.

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