Preparing Your Family for the Stress of the Holidays
Christmas will be here before we know it!
What do you find most stressful about the holidays?
Once Halloween has come and gone, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year are well on their way! Before we know it, the activities of the holidays are in full swing, and we wonder where the time has gone. We scramble to throw together our own family celebrations, only to have them interrupted by the activities family members are involved in.
By the time Christmas comes, we are exhausted, and realize that we didn't even talk about the real reason for the season. Our children are busy playing with their toys, and the Christmas cards we intended to send are still sitting in a pile on the desk.
We sink into our post-holiday blahs and hope that the New Year will bring an opportunity to do better in the future! If the thought of the approaching holiday season brings on a stress headache, it is time to sit down with the family for a brainstorming session. As we work together to determine what is important, calendar the events that everyone is involved in, and think about what makes the holidays special, we enjoy the season much more.
Brainstorming with our family prior to the holiday season gives us a chance to find out how our family feels about the various activities and traditions we are involved in. It gives us the opportunity to calendar events we know about, decide what is important for our family, and talk about our feelings for the events we are celebrating.
In order for brainstorming to be effective, it is necessary to lay some ground rules (see blue square, lower right). Have all family members bring a copy of the calendar and something to write with. Even small children can be given their own calendar page or notebook and colored pen or marker for writing. Allow all family members to share their feelings and contribute ideas.
Brainstorming Ground Rules
Print the following on a poster and lay it in the middle of the place where your family is gathered:
- Share ideas and feelings freely
- Take turns
- Avoid put downs
- Work for agreement
- Write down decisions
An agenda may be necessary to get everything discussed that is important and keep the session following a timeline. A sample agenda might include a warm up activity such as sharing a favorite holiday memory, calendaring the activities family members are involved in, discussing favorite holiday traditions, deciding when to do them, determining who is responsible for advance preparations, and sharing treats.
Allowing all family members to share their ideas and feelings gives ownership in the decision making process. It gives the family a chance to determine what is high priority and those things that are not really very important. We do not need to attend every concert, program, or social that is available to us. We can limit our activities to those that directly involve family members, and use our time for family based traditions and activities.
Once the family plan is in place, post it in a prominent place in the home where all can see. Talk about it. Help family members look forward with excitement to the various activities and events they will be participating in. Have them help with advance preparations. The more the family is involved with planning and implementing the plan, the greater enjoyment all experience.
Gift giving is a tradition for many on the holidays. Unfortunately, families often find themselves thinking of the obligations that they have rather than the purpose of the practice. If we are on a tight budget, stress can come from feeling that we have to give in order to be civil, but the opposite is generally true. Most people are grateful to receive, and do not feel that they have to give in return. When we adopt this mentality, we ease our burden of giving.
We can simplify gift giving in our family by choosing names rather than giving to everyone. Some families do this by writing all of the family member's names onto strips of paper, and putting them into a container. Each person picks out one strip and checks to make sure that they do not have their own name. Once everyone has a name, that is the person for whom they prepare a gift.
When was the last time you actually enjoyed the holidays?
Others use a rotation system for gift giving by listing all family members in order of their age. To the right of the name, put the name of the person next down in the birth order. That is the person for whom they prepare a gift. Each year, the rotation is moved down one notch. This way, family members are able to prepare their gifts far ahead, as they know who they will have the next year.
Another way to save money is to give personal or home-made gifts rather than shopping at the store for them. This can be done by using service gifts or coupons for service to be given in the future, writing letters, creating handmade items using simple crafts, making baked goods, or by giving "white elephant" gifts (gifts that have been previously received).
Some put emphasis on the gift of the Christ child rather than giving to each other. This can be done by constructing a manger out of a cardboard box or wood. All family members are given straw, sticks, or strings. Each time they do a kind deed for another person, they add a straw or piece of string to the manger. As family members see tangible evidence of their kindness to one another, they give more freely. On Christmas Eve, the Christ child has a full manger for a bed, and love is felt by all.
When we involve our families in the planning process, we are giving ourselves permission to relax and enjoy the holiday season. Everything does not have to be perfect. Rather, it can be a time of renewing the traditions and feelings that we want to foster in celebrating an important day of the year.
We can simplify our gift giving to the point that we give meaningful gifts that have purpose and feeling. We can enjoy the preparations that we make, and help family members do something that gives them a feeling of awe and wonder at the gift that was given to the world in the birth of the Christ child.
Life is too short to be stressed over holiday celebrations. When we slow our pace, choose carefully the activities we are involved in, and take time to do meaningful activities with our family, we increase the love and brotherhood that are the magic of the Christmas season.
Enjoy the holidays, for your emotional health!
© 2013 by Denise W. Anderson. All rights reserved.