12 Days of Christmas

expat life expat mums expat parenting expat parenting abroad Nov 30, 2020

This Christmas is feeling a little different for me, and I don’t doubt that it is for you too. While we keep hearing it, it is true… 2020 has been crazy. 

Christmas is normally a time for us to connect as a family, give thanks for all that we have and share gifts with those that we love.

And yes, in some regard we will still have the opportunity to do that. Our family (pending no further outbreaks) will be heading down to the South Island of New Zealand for Christmas this year. We will be staying with the in-laws for 3 weeks, and I’m sure it will be wonderful. My sister in law just had her second baby, a wee boy, so there will be a lot to celebrate.

But what I really want to be doing is flying to South Australia to see my parents this Christmas. As many of you know, dear old dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer as we went into lock down. We made the decision at the time that the risk was too great that I would get there, and then not be able to get back to New Zealand. And although there are now flights to Australia, our borders remain closed. As an Australian I can legally vote, work, buy property and live here, but I can’t get back into New Zealand without special permission. So I still can’t go and see mum and dad, thankfully his treatment is working and it would seem we have time. But…

I get the pull on the heart strings that so many of you are experiencing this year. I get the frustration you feel that you can’t be with loved ones, especially when they are sick. I totally understand how difficult this is for your kids to wrap their heads around. I get it.

So I wanted to share my 12 Tips for Christmas in 2020:

  1. Keep it simple. Sometimes when we can’t do things the way we normally would, we overcompensate. With kids this may mean we buy an ‘extra’ gift. Or we try to do that ‘extra’ something that we think might help ease it for them. Stop yourself from falling into that trap. Remember when they were babies and they loved the box, not the gift. Kids are simple creatures, they want your love and attention, they don’t want extra anything’s from you. 
  2. Make it special. So you can’t be with your extended family this Christmas. This year we have planned a pre christmas celebration. The Saturday before Christmas, we will all get a glass of bubbles (lemonade for the kids) and get dressed up and Facetime my parents. We will have a little party. The girls are preparing a christmas dance to show them. And no doubt they will want to sing some songs – they are already working on their Christmas playlist. So with a bit of planning, but not over compensating, you can make it special and create different memories for your family. 
  3. Slow down. This is a manic time of year, without lockdowns and extra pressure. Make sure you take care of yourself. Put on a face mask early in the evening, relax with some music playing and read a book. Don’t feel that you have to be everywhere, doing everything. Take a step back and find a moment to relax.
  4. Ease up. I know myself there is a tendency to say WTF, and have an extra glass of wine at this time of year. I am trying really hard to be disciplined, to not overindulge, to keep things on track. Make a commitment to yourself that you too will keep it under control, there is nothing worse than a hangover to compound things. 
  5. Phone a friend. So you can’t be there in person. It’s harder than ever to send snail mail, I posted Christmas Cards at the end of October… it’s still not clear they will make it on time! So take the opportunity to pick up the phone and call your friends. Have a chat about life, lockdowns and commiserate where you need to. But make time for friends and chat with them. You and they will feel better for it.
  6. Establish your routine. Christmas can throw everything out the window, late nights, sleeping in. Try not to let it all slip away. Keep your routine as much as possible, especially for your kids. It will ensure you are able to make the most of each day and feel the true festive season, not just one day of fun.
  7. Exercise. Eating too much is a fact of this time of year. So make a family habit of exercising. As we are heading into summer, the girls and I are super excited to be able to walk along the beach in the mornings. Head around our favourite park. Take the scooters to the boardwalk. But whether you’re heading into summer or winter, try and keep exercise as a daily habit. Your mental and physical health will thank you for it.
  8. Make an advent calendar. It’s not too late to start counting down. Keep it simple, each day someone gets to tick a box and choose the song to sing over breakfast. I made an advent calendar when Miss J was 3 (and for all her friends in Delhi), and we still use the same one each year. They get to put a little decoration on a tree and read a fact or fun activity related to Christmas. I honestly can’t believe with all the moves we’ve done I haven’t lost any pieces!?!
  9. Get baking. I know I said earlier be careful not to over indulge, but baking Christmas treats with the kids is so much fun. Gingerbread men, cookies, pudding, cakes. Let your imagination go, and get creative with the kids.
  10. Craft it. Make an angel banner. Make some stars. Make a christmas wreath. Go old school this christmas and recycle objects around the house. When we arrived in Taipei we spent months in a hotel room waiting for our shipment. We made all of our christmas decorations that year, and the girls still talk about it!
  11. Hug. When our stress levels go up, which can be common at this time of year, we tend to put up barriers. Start today and hug your kids that little bit longer. Hug your partner. Remember to tell them you love them. Despite border closures, despite lockdown, despite homeschooling, you’re in this together. You’re a team. Remember to love your team. 
  12. Have fun! Create new traditions. Sing your heart out. Dance with your kids. The less you focus on what you can’t do, what you wanted to do instead, where you wanted to be instead, and be present in the moment, the more fun you will have. 

What’s your Christmas going to look like this year? Please do share in the comments.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday season xx

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