• Don’t give your children their big presents just before the family arrives. It’s unrealistic to expect small children to share a brand new, longed-for toywith a horde of invaders.
• Give the older children their presents while the babies are having their post-prandial sleep. Then they’re guaranteed an hour of marble-run fun without a 15·month-old’s ‘help’.
• Split up. Get one adult to play games with a couple of children; another to do colouring and another to sit and have a cuddle.
• Go out. Cooped up children are fractious children. Give them a run in the park and let them throw stones in the river. You’ll have the whole place to yourself, as all the other families will be busy killing
one another indoors.
• Keep diversions handy. Christmas crackers, bubbles, balloons, party poppers, and tiny stocking fillers can help you through the tricky moments.
• Stick to your normal rules (or a slightly relaxed version of them). Don’t stop disciplining them ‘because it’s Christmas’. And make it clear to your relatives in advance that it’s your house – and that all children abide by your house rules.