Holiday Survival Guide

December 6, 2013

Buckle up parents…the holidays are here! Some of us smile and dance; others sigh deeply and wonder how we will ever get it all done. The societal expectations of the season, fed by Martha Stewart specials and unending commercials displaying ‘perfect’ holiday scenarios can delude the strongest of minds. And I have good news! There is a way to unplug and reclaim your holiday for you and your family to truly enjoy, so read on!Christmas

As a mother, and a very young one when I started, I had ridiculously unrealistic expectations of myself. Growing up, my holidays had been very magical more often than not. I endeavored to create the same magic, warmth and wonderment for my family. It did not occur to me that I had been an only child being raised by my mother and her family, which included three other adults. My expectations of myself were totally unrealistic given there was only one of me and yet it took a few emotional meltdowns before I could see that.

The revelation came mid-crying jag alone in my bedroom. I had been trying to do everything I normally did (which was already a very full life) AND add all the holiday stuff…cards, decorating trees, shopping, baking, etc… Was I crazy?? Who did I think I was…superwoman?? From that moment on things began to change as I gave myself permission to pick and choose holiday endeavors. After all, what’s a wonderful Norman Rockwell ambiance if Mama is looking like a deer in headlights with red, swollen eyes? Not pretty.

If you are interested in making your holiday one that is truly full of peace and joy rather than stress and exhaustion, here are some of my ideas:

• Take time to consider what is most important to you. Shape holiday plans around your self and your family rather than ‘shoulds’ from your extended family, church, community, etc…
• If children are school age and older, include them in the decision making by asking them “What do you like most about the holidays?” “Is there anything about the holidays you don’t enjoy?” Consider their answers, they are full of wisdom, and let them know about plans once they are made.
• If you have younger children, consider putting your tree or other holiday decorations up later in the month to delay their excitement and unbearable anticipation. You can also delay putting presents under the tree. Their lack of concept of time can make a month seem like forever.
• If traveling, try to have your own space where you can wind down and take a break. Plan outside activities with only your child in mind that are not centered around others. This reestablishes your personal family ‘center’ which is very grounding.
• Be willing to use TV consciously to serve your interests. It can help children to unwind, at times, and is a quiet way to spend time together just ‘being’, snuggled up watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.
• My favorite decision was no cooking on the day we put up the tree. Ordering pizza freed me to enjoy every moment along with everyone else. Resentment rectified!
• I eliminated sending Christmas cards in favor of using that time to bake with my children, which took more time than doing it on my own. While I missed connecting with friends, I loved the slower pace with one less ‘to do’on my list. Some families I know send cards and connect with friends on other holidays, such as Thanksgiving or Valentine’s when there is less to do.
• Leave some space in the holiday schedule…don’t plan every minute. Leave room for spontaneous fun, such as an afternoon movie as a family.

My last and maybe most important suggestion is a post holiday debriefing that includes everyone in your home. Talking about the holiday, what everyone loved the most and least, what plans worked well and which didn’t, were new traditions created, and which do you never want to do again…etc.

This can be humorous and fun as you look back over the season and learn more about what truly makes you and your family happy. It’s best to do this before the New Year and write down what you discover. By the time the calendar turns round again, the joys and horrors of the previous year will strangely be forgotten.

Over the years I learned from my mistakes and created wonderful memories with my family. The changes I made were not all easy and the peace they gave my heart allowed me to be fully present with my family. That made it all worthwhile.

What changes will you make this season to retain your sanity?
What do you do different from others that makes a difference in your home?
There’s a million ways to roll through December and I would love to hear from you!

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