Christmas is supposedly a time to spend as a family, but in reality many parents are lucky if they can get their kids to sit with them for the duration of a film, let alone days and days of festivity.
Whether they are teenagers who enjoy spending time in their room playing video games, or younger children who just want to be left alone, it can be difficult for adults to know how to stop children from shutting themselves away.
Of course if kids are tired or need privacy, it is important to respect that, as ChannelMum founder, Siobhan Freegard, says: “Christmas can be overwhelming for children of all ages and you may find they need to spend more time than normal in their rooms.”
But if they’re just making themselves scarce out of boredom there are some ways that parents can encourage them downstairs.
1. Check Yourself
Before you go any further, it is important to ask whether your child is simply taking cues from you and other family members over the Christmas period.
Are you all sitting on your phones around the dinner table or busying yourself with things they can’t get involved in?
Clinical psychologist and parent educator, Ann Rasmussen, tells HuffPost UK: “Be 100% present. No phone distractions, no multi-tasking. Try to be fully in the moment, carefree and warmly available.
“Yes, this will feel weird. But try to plunge into a spirit of playful abandon, the way you used to when they were little.”
Spend time with your kids one-on-one and ensure they are having a good time.
2. Ask Them To Show Off Their Presents
Once you’re sure you aren’t doing anything to isolate them, start with the easiest way to get them talking - presents. Obviously this doesn’t work all year, but at Christmas you have ample topics for conversation.
So instead of letting them take their gifts off to their room, encourage them to show other members of the family (especially if it is tech they can teach others how to use).
Freegard says: “Get older children to help out younger ones with their new toys in communal areas like the kitchen living or living room. Get the whole family involved.”
3. Cook With Them
Obviously most parents don’t have days and days of nothing to do, and are likely to be responsible for ensuring everyone is fed, watered and having a wonderful time. So get your kids involved in this.
“Cooking is a great way to tempt children out of their rooms,” says Freegard.
“Whether it’s helping to prepare the main Christmas lunch, or asking them to make their signature dish, everyone from toddlers to teens likes to help.”
4. Get Out Of The House
Sometimes, regardless of the activity, staying at home means children will be forever sneaking off to their bedroom. And before you know it, hours have passed and you haven’t heard a peep from them.
So why not take a Christmas walk? Or a simple outdoor activity to get everyone out of the house, because we could all do with some fresh air after days inside.
“It’s amazing how fresh air can blow away the cobwebs and make a world of difference to how you feel as well – especially on days when you haven’t had much sleep or your child is feeling a bit grumpy or grizzly at home,” says a spokesperson for parenting charity, NCT.
Freegard agrees: “Kids may moan at first but they’ll come back happier and healthier.”