By Marcia Hall
When most parents hear the word “Holidays”, “Christmas” or “Hanukkah” there is a feeling of joy and excitement mixed with a bit of anxiety and possibly even panic. Everything around, from store fronts to advertisements, says that this time of year is supposed to be fun, peaceful and all about family, but rarely do parents feel that way. It is possible, however, to make it to the end of the season with some joy and peace left intact.
Limit Commitments – Yes, there are some things you cannot say “no” to. However, there are plenty of activities that you can take a pass on. Make a list of all the people you want to see and parties or events that you went to last year or know that you have to go to this year. Put a star next to the ones you feel like you “have” to go to. Highlight those you are really excited about going to. Then take a look again at those on the list that you put a star next too. Ask yourself what would really happen if you did not attend that event or see that person before Christmas. The reality is that people tend to go to events around this time of year simply because they think they are obligated to attend. But in order to make the holiday season more enjoyable for you and your family, some things might have to go.
Perhaps there are some people you could make plans to get together with after the hurriedness of the holidays has passed. If there are people on your list that you just can’t seem to fit into the schedule right now, give them a call and make plans to get together after the New Year, or at least after Christmas.
Enjoy the simple things – Parents often want their family to have a flawless and seamless holiday experience. You frantically search for the perfect gifts, decorate the house with millions of lights and adornments, and sacrifice to get your child to every possible fun occasion you can. However, your children seem to not even notice or appreciate all your hard work. These activities are not always the things that create lasting memories for your children.
Talk to your children if they are old enough. Ask them what really matters to them during the season. If they are not old enough, think back to your own childhood. What made those memories special for you? Was it that they were picture-perfect, or was it that you spent them with the people that you loved? Try to pick a few simple things and focus on doing those. Reject the pressure you feel to do everything to make the season picture-perfect.
Remember your childhood celebrations with accuracy – Often times the reason that parents push themselves to “do it all” during the holidays is that they remember all the things that they did when they were kids. Try to look back at your childhood with more detail about the events that meant so much to you. Did you love going out to see the Christmas lights? Do you remember it being amazing? Do you also remember freezing and complaining the whole time?
When parents plan these events for their families, remembering only the great things about their own childhood experiences, there is an expectation that their kids will understand the meaning behind the tradition, have a great time, and say only nice things to each other. This is something out of a movie that is often not reality. Set your expectations according to the understanding that even though you look back at your childhood holiday traditions with love now, in the moment you probably complained (almost) as much as your children currently are. Then, when your children complain that they are too cold and want to go home, it does not hurt your feelings or cause you stress. You know that you now look back at those times with fond memories, and you can have faith that someday they will too.
Look at the holiday through your child’s eyes – It is so easy in the hustle and bustle of getting everything done to forget what it is like to be a child during this season. Whatever holiday your family celebrates during this season, your child will look at it with great anticipation and delight. No matter how many toys your child says that she wants, remember that what she wants most is more time with you.
With a few small adjustments to your outlook, you can not only make it through the season, but do so with joy, finding yourself refreshed on January 1st instead of exhausted and in need of a vacation.