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It’s the week before Christmas and things may be falling apart at your house. The noise level may seem several decibels higher than usual. The children’s ability to pay attention and follow directions may seem at an all-time low. And they may seem to be annoying each other, melting down into tears, and getting on your nerves like never before.

No surprise: it’s the Christmas Jitters!

Once you realize that your children are wound up in anticipation of the big holiday and all that goes with it, it’s easier to cut them some slack. Here are some tips to help you do just that.

Filter behavior this week through the lens of the Jitters. Lower your standards just a bit. Increase your patience and sweetness. On December 26th things will be back to nearly normal.

Support behavior by keeping things as simple and stress-free as possible. Imagine that your children are each a year or two younger than their actual ages. Assume that none of them is able to cope with complexity right now or manage tasks without supervision.

Notice what you want to see and comment positively on it. It’s easy, when you have so much to do yourself right now, to harp on your children’s disappointing behavior and nag about their shortcomings. Try instead to tell them what they’re doing right. Remember that we always get what we focus on from our kids, so focus on what they’re doing right and you’ll see more of it.

Give kids things to do that will support feelings of being “grown up.” Give your children easy tasks to do that make them feel like contributors to the holiday fixings. Let them help wrap gifts, replace ornaments the cat knocks off, read to a younger sibling, or help with cooking and cleaning. Feeling responsible and useful will help your children behave better all day long.

Recognize that you also have the Christmas Jitters. The holiday time is exciting and stressful for adults too. You’ve got a lot going on, there’s a lot to check off the to-do list, and you’re a bit anxious, maybe, about how some of the things you’ve planned will go over. You also will feel better once the holiday is behind you, but right now work in some time to relax each day.

Keep the holiday merry and bright by smiling at the Christmas Jitters whenever you see them bounce around your house. Excitement is part of the fun!

© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.

Is feeling thankful something that just gets tacked on to the November holiday? Do you wonder if you can start the holiday season off on a note of gratitude instead of launching straight into a focus on “gimme-tude”? It’s not too late to launch “30 Days of Thanks” in your family.

Make noticing all the everyday goodness of life something you pause to do each day. How you do this depends on the ages of your children and the amount of time and creativity you want to devote to this. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Make a spin-off on the traditional advent calendar by creating a Thankfulness Calendar. This could be just a large wall calendar or something with flaps like an Advent calendar. Each day of the month, help your child think of something she is grateful for that day and then draw a picture, write a sentence, or paste an image onto the space. Younger children will require more help, of course. Older children, especially, should try to think of something different for each day. Can they come up with 30 different things they’re thankful for be the end of the month?

Younger children can also make a book, instead of a calendar. Staple together 15 sheets of paper, folded in half to make a booklet, and draw or write on each page.

By the way, resist the urge to censor your children’s choices or to make any suggestions. If your son is thankful that he killed an alien and achieved the next level of his video game that day, then let him record that. If your daughter “can’t think of anything,” then suggest she just think over her day for a few minutes until something comes to mind. Being thankful is a new skill. Let your kids grow into it.

Preteens, teens and the adults in the household can keep a daily gratitude journal. This could be a written journal, a blog, a Pinterest category, a photo gallery or any other sort of way you can think of to record your good fortune. It’s important to set a good example by participating yourself. It’s not just kids who need to be reminded to count their blessings. Make this a family affair.

Keep the ball rolling by sharing what you each recorded at dinner or before bedtime each evening. Keeping up with this daily and talking about good things helps to make this exercise less a chore and more part of the holiday. You could also share the creative work once a week, maybe every Sunday night.

Finally, be sure to share your family’s collection of grateful feelings as part of the celebration on Thanksgiving Day.

Starting the winter holidays on a thankful note is a good way to preempt some of the commercialism of the time. Enjoy your children and think grateful thoughts each and every day!

© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.