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Ideas to keep Christmas exciting for my only child

(29 Posts)
Grumpyoldblonde Tue 23-Jun-15 19:26:22

It is June and I am already getting worried about Christmas. My lovely daughter will be 12 and of course no longer believes in FC (sob.) For various reasons our family is smaller this year and so I am concerned our Christmas will be a boring wash-out for her. I am Christmas crazy, I love it but I am hoping for ideas to make new more grown up traditions. Up until now our festive periods have been extravagant blow-outs, over the top decorations, masses of gifts and food, reindeer food, sparkly reindeer foot prints on the carpet, unexpected bells jingling in the run up, you name it... now it feels like everything is going to fall flat. There are no same age cousins we can invite over and obviously her friends will be busy, plus I think our budget is likely to be smaller this year. Any ideas? TIA

Cumbrae Tue 23-Jun-15 19:43:23

I want to be kind, but this kind of thread always worried me a bit.

Christmas threads starting in June and parents winding themselves up into states of anxiety about making it 'perfect'.

Then on Christmas Day lots of threads with distressed posters because their children didn't appreciate their efforts.

Christmas should be about celebrating a joyful time with your family, it honestly doesn't need a lot of superficial stuff thrown at it.

Why don't you wait until a bit closer to Christmas and ask your DD what would make it 'perfect' for her.

Less is very often more.

My DC are 7 yo and haven't believed in Santa for two Christmases. We've still had a wonderful

chanie44 Tue 23-Jun-15 20:00:55

Sorry, I disagree. I love planning Xmas and making it fun. I don't expect it to be perfect but being with family is what makes it perfect.


visit the lights in a city or town you don't normally go to.
Listen to a carol service
Make some decorations and Xmas baking (lots of ideas online)
On Xmas eve, watch a Christmas film and eat popcorn.
Cook her favourite dinner on Xmas, even if it isn't a traditional one.
Buy some posh canapés and glitter j20.
Play some board/card games on Xmas day.
Lidl gingerbread houses are fun.

SideOrderofChips Tue 23-Jun-15 20:18:27

I totally disagree. You can start earlier to make christmas magic.

BiddyPop Wed 24-Jun-15 07:41:46

I'm doing an Arnie, I"@@ be back.

Not posting my probable extensive reply on iPad on train.

But have ideas and support.

MythicalKings Wed 24-Jun-15 07:47:11

I'm with cumbrae. Let Christmas evolve. Don't overplan and stress yourself out.

Too many "Trying too hard" Christmas threads on mumsnet in the run up. And too much disappointment when it isn't perfect. it's meant to be about the DCs but on mumsnet it seems to be for the mums.

And as for the ridiculous elf ...

Treat her to a grown up Christmas. Bucks fizz at breakfast. Carols on the radio. An orderly opening or presents. Let her help get the dinner ready. Maybe she could make the stuffing.

After dinner a grown up board game or two. It will still be fun.

MythicalKings Wed 24-Jun-15 07:47:45

*of presents

Blu Wed 24-Jun-15 07:54:36

Depends on the personality and preferences of your child.

I loved doing something that felt edgy, you know, how it used to feel if you ever went into your school at the weekend, when it was empty.

E,g Take a Christmas picnic to a hill top (complete with crackers)
Or somewhere near you that people would 't normally go at Christmas

Do some volunteering

De-camp to a modest holiday cottage

All make a surprise Christmas dish for one meal

Make a family Christmas reality TV type movie of you all

Have a cracker making competition

What she might want to do most in the whole wide world is spend ages on the phone and FB with friends!

mrsdavidbowie Wed 24-Jun-15 07:56:38

I don't get how a Lidl gingerbread house is fun.
Especially for a 12 year old.

BiddyPop Wed 24-Jun-15 09:09:46

Firstly, I am a Christmas nut who is the mother of an only (turns 10 on Boxing Day). We DO still have FC, but I am not convinced that DD still actually believes. But I have thought it through for when she obviously doesn't as well.

I think you are wise to think about this in advance - not to make it over-the-top magical that "YOU WILL ENJOY OR I WILL GET VERY UPSET", but more that you have thought about your own DDs temperament and what will make it magical for her as she grows up so in a different and still meaningful way. That needs thinking, and possibly planning, time. Not necessarily lots of buying time.

Starting point - what is your family dynamic like at Christmas? Is it a large extended family gathering or just you 3 together?

And have a think about what your DD likes herself. Is she a quiet, movies on the sofa, time out from school enjoying some computer games curled up, off out for long brisk walks, involved in lots so upset at missing friends or happy in her own skin?

Try and engineer a few conversations over the next while - before there is any pressure about Christmas. Just seeing what she thinks about your traditions, and if there are things she wants to keep doing or let go. Or if she has ideas for new things to do.

If your "family is smaller this year", does that mean there have been bereavements or people going into long term care, or more that you have moved away from wider family? I don't mean to be intrusive or expect an answer on the thread - it's a question for you to think about. If the former, make sure there is time to remember everyone no longer in the family group. If the latter, be ready for sadness (possibly) at missing people but try to arrange some Skype/facetime calls etc.

You also need to start with the thought that Christmas, at 12, means the whole 2 (?) weeks holidays from school, not just Christmas Day. And even before then, the run up to them. Try to have a few things in mind for the "flatter" days afterwards too.

You will still want to decorate. DD may not want to make paper chains anymore (but that may still be something you do together as a nice mother/daughter or father/daughter thing). (Replace paper chains with crafty activity of your family's tradition). She may be interested in decorating with you, if not previously involved. She may be interested in learning some more intricate crafts to do more "grown up" decorations or presents.

Don't just get rid of advent calendars just because she's getting older. She might still want a chocolate one. Or something like the Boots No7 one with makeup bits could be nice, as she's getting older. We have a chocolate one, and one with pockets that I leave notes, colouring sheets, treasure hunt clues for a stocking filler toy, etc, and the activities (sheets and/or notes telling her of today's plans) have gotten more grown up as DD gets older.

Pedestriancrossing Wed 24-Jun-15 09:20:08

OP I worry about this too as we have no family that can visit over Christmas. It does not help that ds friends have extended families close by (which is just how things are) and TV advertising full of "perfect" glittery Christmases. In my experience a bit of planning is needed if you want to go and "do things" at Christmas as events get booked up !-We always go to see something fun at the theatre at some point over the holiday (ds still likes a panto and have done horrible histories etc). I am also on the lookout for ideas so will watch this thread with interest!

NanFlanders Wed 24-Jun-15 09:20:53

Even if you don't go to church, a midnight service on Christmas can be really magical - staying up light, candles, readings and carols and (often) followed by some mulled wine (for you!) and Christmas treats for her. I'm a believer, but my husband isn't at all, but he really enjoys the Christmas service. Could she and her friends go carol singing to raise money for a good cause in the week before Christmas? Love all Blu's suggestions too.

BiddyPop Wed 24-Jun-15 09:30:58

If she no longer believes in FC, would she be interested in doing family stockings? So everyone gets something small (or a few small bits) to put into a stocking for the others. You may want to get fruit/sweets for all. And all 3 of you have stockings to open on Christmas morning. Or even, knowing that no FC and no big FC presents, a stocking from you as parents for the morning could still be nice. There are so many nice but small things that can go into a stocking for growing up girls, and even adults, that it doesn't have to be a "childish" thing, indeed, it can be very practical for lots of the little things a girl needs (hair bobbins, nice deodorant or a perfume sample, cotton pads and face cleaning stuff, nail file, nice pens/pencils for school....) - but something small among more grown up things that is a nice little toy and throwback to childhood would be sweet.

She may also like the idea of getting involved in helping others. So doing a shoebox type appeal, or a local giving tree. Or just thinking of a family locally who you think would be under pressure and doing something for them anonymously.

Get her to start getting involved in the preparations. So she might wrap her own presents (ones from her I mean) or help you with ideas for different people. She might be interested in making certain foods (Christmas cookies, cheese twists, homemade lemonade etc). She is old enough to start getting involved in the housework and kitchen chores - so as there is extra cleaning done, give her a job or two.

Think about outings that she'd enjoy. OK, Santa trips are gone. But would she like to go to a Carol service or other musical event? Especially one that is an evening event? Does she still want to go to a Panto? Would she like to go to the movies with her friends one night instead? Are there other Christmas events that are magical but not totally "small child" focussed that she'd like to see locally or within reasonable reach?

Definitely try to have a shopping trip together. Special mother/daughter time. This is not for you to be buying lots, maybe picking up a couple of items, but more to go together, she can do her buying and get advice from you, but also you have a time out getting coffee/cakes or lunch together and a chance to chat. And enjoy watching the people and hearing the bustle and seeing the festive magic on the main streets without being under pressure. Do another evening (probably before the outing) online shopping together to get ideas and buy ahead so that you have less to HAVE to do on the trip, and can enjoy the spirit without the "I'm hot, have 20 bags, it's too crowded and shops are closing" panic - you can say "we've just bought 1 item but here's a nice place to stop and relax, and then head home because it is mad here today, but look at the lovely school choir over there".

We do a Christmas Hamper in our house. After dinner on Christmas Eve, we light a Christmas Candle (youngest in the house lights it) which gets placed in the window to show weary travelers that we have "room at the inn". (Or on the mantelpiece in our case). We have a little service around that - which means that we have a few minutes quiet time, we talk about the good things that happened in the year since last Christmas, and any bad things too. We remember family and friends no longer with us. We think of anyone who is ill. Then we say a decade of the rosary. (We are Catholic, although not particularly religious - but this ceremony has special meaning for us as a small family group).

After that, we open up the box - there are 3 new pairs of PJs for DH, DD and I. My old Christmas slippersocks, I usually get a new pair for DD (DH wouldn't be a wearer of those). A Christmassy bath bomb each for DD and I from Lush. A NAICE hot choc (the lump of choc on a wooden spoon) each. DD's Snowman hot water bottle cover. Last year, I found snowman shaped marshmallows in Ikea for the hot choc. And DD's stocking to hang. While the stocking may no longer be needed, it is nice to have a lovely Christmassy bath and relax before getting into new, fresh pJs for bed. (We're still at the stage of needing DD to get to bed at a reasonable time, at 12 she may be staying up later).

GooseyLoosey Wed 24-Jun-15 09:33:11

On Christmas Eve, the last advent calendar thing takes them on a massive treasure hunt around the house and garden. Ds is also 12 and to ensure that he stays interested, the clues are much harder this year - riddles and the like. There are about 20 clues - each with a chocolate and when they get to the end, there is something like a pair of PJs.

For Christmas dinner, I buy everyone a magic trick for a couple of pounds. Everyone performs their trick after dinner. We play stupid board games too.

We do a family secret santa, so we all go shopping the weekend before Christmas and everyone has £5-10 to buy something silly for a given family member. We try and buy things that will be a laugh for Christmas day.

Grumpyoldblonde Wed 24-Jun-15 09:45:38

Hi, wow, so many great replies, I got caught up in a family drama last night and didn't make it back.
Don't get me wrong, I am not working myself up into a frenzy but Christmas is in the back of my mind. We have had wonderful over the top Christmas's to date but due to a death and a marriage break up this whole year is going to be different. I was thinking of maybe booking the Harry Potter tour over the festive period (I want to book a few things in advance to stretch the cost and also as something to look forward to) It is the actual day itself I am a little concerned about. there will be family here but the older relatives will just want to relax and drink lots of wine. If it were just us I would call a Pyjama and popcorn day. I am going to have a good read through your kind responses and maybe some in the same boat will get some ideas, so thank you.
I am feeling a bit blue what with all the circumstances around me and for the first time rather envy those with a large family. Thanks again.

BiddyPop Wed 24-Jun-15 09:52:21

I have a long list of activities that many are for smaller DCs but can be modified.

So going for a nice walk in the woods is still a good idea, for brisk fresh air and to look at nature changing - just maybe not gathering pine cones to paint anymore.

Perhaps not exactly a duvet fort picnic, but an afternoon curled up with hot choc and festive DVDs together could be nice.

I would still play Christmas music while doing my preps - but maybe get more into classical, jazz, country options instead of just Children's songs. (Try Live365 internet radio, there are about 20+ festive channels to choose from in lots of different types).

Does your DD like cooking at all? Would she like to be responsible for an aspect of the family celebrations? Maybe Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas morning breakfast, or the bread sauce, or trifle, or....insert family favourite or new idea here... Also, take the chance to start teaching her the kitchen skills over the quiet time, and some family recipes to pass on.

Volunteering is great. Whether the buying something for someone in need (see last post) or helping out somewhere. Or maybe something like bringing some baking to the local Fire station or police station for the people who look after us all year. Local pre-schools/nursery may welcome an extra pair of hands for an afternoon in the run up.

At 12, she may be gone beyond "crafting", but might love the idea of an afternoon getting messy with glitter and paint together. Or give her the bits with a friend to make cards or whatever. Perhaps a few more "grown up craft" bits in the materials would be useful - so glass painting, or being allowed at the sewing machine to make a tree decoration, or acrylic paints instead of just poster paints.

While you are cooking dinner one afternoon, she might like to sit at the table and stuff cloves into oranges and just chat. But give it as an option- (and you can do it later if she's not interested, so still having something nice for decoration and smell).

In the quiet days afterwards, have a few things planned. Again, thinking of her interests - can you arrange a meet up with a friend of hers over the weekend or before NYE? Will you be doing any visiting to wider family? (Are there any visits that she will start to find boring - so can she bring a good book, or can she stay at home, for some of those?). Will you be going to the sales, particularly will there be an opportunity to go together (and can she get a half hour or hour by herself in that trip)? Or is she responsible enough to leave at home while you go?

Are there board games she likes to have a family night? Card games? Get in the crisps, nice drinks, and set it up together. You may even want to get a new board game - there are lots that are more "grown up" and range from activity to thinking to just silliness. Find one or more to suit your family.

Sorry for the length of my posts - I probably have x-posted with most by now, I just got started and kept typing.

But enjoy. And don't put too much pressure on either yourself, or the rest of the family, to have a magical time. Just try to have a nice time, and if there is magic, so much the better.

sooperdooper Wed 24-Jun-15 09:58:22

I'm not being unkind but how about not worrying about Christmas in June and making the whole year special and fun and enjoyable?

Why not plan something lovely this weekend or every week over the summer so the year is filled with lovely memories rather than just s short period of time in December?

BiddyPop Wed 24-Jun-15 09:59:19

Grumpy, just saw your last post.

On Christmas Eve, I'd try to do as much organizing as possible and get DD to help doing that. Doing veg, setting the table etc.

Have a nice breakfast that is special to you 3.

Allow DD a chance to retreat to her room at various stages, or head out to the garden etc to play there if she wants/go for a cycle etc.

Maybe DD and DH could go for a walk after lunch, or even all 3 of you, while someone washes up?

Make time for yourselves in the chaos. And allow yourself to remember those not there too.

Grumpyoldblonde Wed 24-Jun-15 10:03:00

sooperdooper I explained in my most recent post I am not getting in a lather but Christmas is very important to me and is in the back of my mind all year round (along with lots of other things) recent events have made me aware that time is precious. We do lots every weekend and it normally involves her friends over which won't happen on the 25th December.
I love the idea of the make-up advent calendar - so thanks for that.
I think I am feeling sentimental right now and a bit hormonal.

Grumpyoldblonde Wed 24-Jun-15 10:05:06

Thanks Biddypop nice ideas there.

iamnotaponceyloudperson Wed 24-Jun-15 10:25:16

I don't have an only child but understand the getting older part and Christmas Day itself potentially being a bit less exciting.

One of the things my eldest (coming up to 11) looks forward to most now is the Christmas afternoon picnic. We drive to a local beauty spot where they'll be lots of people scattered around and being friendly; a few kids on new bikes, dogs wearing tinsel etc. Everyone wears something Christmassy with varying degrees of subtlety. We then find a peaceful spot and have a picnic with hot chocolate in huge mugs with squirty cream and marshmallows, an enormous tin of Quality Streets and mince pies. Apart from the flasks and cream I get this all packed up and in the car a couple of days in advance so we don't find an excuse not to go. Gets us out of the house to enjoy the lovely atmosphere and its a bit different. The gps don't come as its too cold and they actually enjoy the snooze time which gives us a bit of family time. Then home for xmas dinner in the very early evening.

We try to make xmas day one which we'll all enjoy but isn't totally mad present focused because that kind of excitement is pretty unsustainable through the years unless you keep upping the budget every year, so its special versions of things we like anyway.

BiddyPop Wed 24-Jun-15 13:29:22

MrsDavidBowie - a Lidl gingerbread house may not be fun to lots of 12 year olds. But it may be a fun creative activity for lots of others. You don't have to stick to the things that come in the box - use other sweets, have different coloured icings, and cake decoration bits, and let the child have fun being creative.

Older DCs may also be interested in making up their own designs on paper, making the templates and the gingerbread themselves and then decorating it - as much as an engineering/design thing as a "Christmas fun for small kids" thing.

Then again, that older DC may just want to put their head down into tv/pc game/book or be out with friends all the time.

All are different, and all may have different expectations of Christmas, and of how Christmas traditions may change as they get older. Some may evolve into more grown up versions, some may stay the same as always, and others may disappear.

But please don't mock what works for some families just because it may not work for yours.

I'm actually in the same boat as Mythical Kings and Cumbrae, I think. I want to plan ahead to be able to have things ready to do, and be able to enjoy the run up because the organizing is done ahead of time. Let DC have some magic (and DH and I have some magic too). But as DD has ADHD and aspergers, I can't put too much pressure on or it is spoiled for her. I can't make changes unless they are well known in the run up. Routines change anyway for holidays, so we need to know how they will change. And I am always ready to drop something that won't work or if DD is having a bad day - missing out on things doesn't disappoint me generally, but having no plans up my sleeve can be worse than over-excitement and "it will all be FUN" said through gritted teeth. Dropping potential plans means we can be spontaneous if something else comes up or that we can go into our bubble if there is too much going on to allow us enjoy it. So yes, my posts sound manic and like the mythical Elf on speed - but reality is much less frenetic and far lower expectations of wonder, just looking for enjoyment by all.

Grumpyoldblonde Wed 24-Jun-15 13:58:16

I am pretty certain my daughter would enjoy making a Gingerbread house although I am not sure how many sweets would end up being stuck on it rather than being sneakily eaten!
I think I will have to accept that certain ships have sailed and the 25th won't be the sparkly huge affair of previous years but a more relaxing day in among other activities I can plan. So, I will book a trip to the Panto or other festive Christmassy show, think about a day at Harry Potter studios, maybe put on a small party for her friends (cheap crackers, festive music & movies) Nothing else I can really do I guess. I might suggest we have a pamper night in the run up, face packs, do our nails and so on.

iamnotaponceyloudperson Wed 24-Jun-15 14:20:37

Might not be your thing at all or perhaps the older relatives won't like it but could you go out for Christmas lunch? Find a posh pub which is likely to have a nice restaurant but also bustling atmostphere and Christmas music etc. She could have new clothes. Possibly a walk after and then snuggle in with a movie she's not seen before, lots of nice nibbles etc.

This is my dream for when the DC get older!

iamnotaponceyloudperson Wed 24-Jun-15 14:22:31

Oh yes you could make a hideously extravagant gingerbread house.A bit younger but our DC1 (slightly younger but also a non believer) still loves doing this. We buy the basic house and then they make all sorts of ridiculous gingerbread add ons with cookie cutters. Not over the top but fun!

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