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Family festive survival guide

Parenting guru Therese Sequeira shares her Christmas coping strategies

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The holidays can be stressful time for families. Time Out Kids talks to parenting guru Therese Sequeira about solving those niggling issues that can put the fester into festive.

My parents-in-law are coming for the holidays – and they always interfere when it comes to discipline. I don’t want to argue with them, but I don’t want the kids behaving like spoilt brats either. What should I do?

Get in early and have an honest conversation with your in-laws before they start interfering. Ask for their support without judgment and not their participation when disciplining your children. Explain what you see as their role as grandparents to your children and take the time to listen to what your in-laws have to say. You may find that such an honest conversation is beneficial for all parties. And remember to manage behaviour consistently with your kids.

My five-year-old daughter’s birthday is quite close to Christmas, so for around six weeks, she’s is being spoilt rotten. By New Year, I’ve got Veruca Salt on my hands. How can I prevent this from happening and turn
it around again?

It’s important that you celebrate your daughter’s birthday in the usual way that you do in your family so that she has her special day, which could become diluted at this time of the year. Ensure that she understands about being gracious for her gifts. For the rest of the time, do your best to encourage her ‘good’ behaviours – praise, spending time, talking and laughing with her; and have consistent, fair strategies for any misbehaviour. If you are doing this all of the time, you won’t have too many problems with ‘spoilt’ behaviours.

I’m quite traditional and think children should write thank you letters when people give them presents – but my kids just will not do it. How can I encourage them positively, without a war breaking out?
It’s great that you like to teach your children the value of gratitude. Perhaps it’s time to embrace technology! Most children love having ‘computer time’, so perhaps they could send e-cards or personalized thank you emails that they can decorate with clip art this year? You may have fewer complaints if you make it fun to send thank you messages electronically!

I dread Christmas because the children always bicker and fight over their new toys. I don’t want to buy the same things for all of them as they are of varying ages. How can I handle the situation better?
Parents need to encourage positive sibling relationships at all times. This includes encouraging friendship, problem solving, cooperation, appropriate language and respect. Create some rules now about how the children play with and share their toys. Then, praise the children when they are following the rules. When they are not, act immediately, with consistent, fair consequences and stick to your decisions! Start this process now and you won’t have any problems by Christmas.

My parents always buy far too much for my children at Christmas to make up for the fact that we don’t live in the same country. Would it be wrong of me to ask them to scale back on their spending?
Being open and honest is usually a good idea. You could ask your parents to spend less, although your parents may go against your wishes! Remember, the givers of the gifts often get as much pleasure as the receivers. Ensure that your children are grateful for any gifts they receive and express their thanks appropriately.

My son has a friend from a very wealthy family, and the child’s parents always spoil him when he stays with them. I know they are going to give him a huge Christmas present – and their generosity makes me uncomfortable. What’s your advice?
Allow your child to enjoy the time he spends with his friend’s family and ensure he is appreciative of any gifts he receives. Most people don’t give gifts to make others feel bad, so instead of feeling uncomfortable, try to see the kindness offered by this family to your son. I’m sure they get a lot of pleasure out of giving to him!

Is it ok to use ‘time out’ on Christmas Day? My husband thinks it’s mean and we should let the kids have a free rein Offering kids ‘free rein’ every now and then can be confusing for them. When parents choose to ignore ‘bad’ behaviour, they actually encourage it to occur more often. Time out is a positive back-up strategy that gives children and parents time to calm down when behaviour escalates. If you choose to ignore all misbehaviour on Christmas Day, you may find that your day will be quite miserable as you could be busy sorting out fights.

We’re going to a friend’s house for Christmas Day, and my children always seem to end up fighting with her kids. How can I keep things calm?
Some time before you go to your friend’s house, have a discussion with your children about how to behave when visiting others. Give your kids the chance to explain to you about the relationships they have with the other children and ask clarifying questions if you don’t understand their perspective. Do some problem solving together so that your children can attempt to resolve any issues as they arise. On Christmas Day, ensure that the children are appropriately supervised and offer praise and encouragement when you see them playing well. Use fair, consistent consequences for any misbehaviour.
Therese Sequeira runs Triple P parenting courses and seminars at kidsFIRST Medical Center, www.parentingdubai.com (04 348 5437).

By Time Out Dubai kids staff
Time Out Dubai,

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