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Preparing Your Family for the Stress of the Holidays

Updated on October 13, 2017
denise.w.anderson profile image

Denise speaks from her own experience. She has had many trials and difficulties in her own life, and seeks to help others through theirs.

Christmas will be here before we know it!

The holidays are stressful when we see all of the things that need to be done before they come. It can be overwhelming just thinking about it!
The holidays are stressful when we see all of the things that need to be done before they come. It can be overwhelming just thinking about it! | Source

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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.

Brainstorm

When we brainstorm together with our family, we allow individual members of the family to come up with ideas that might help everyone.
When we brainstorm together with our family, we allow individual members of the family to come up with ideas that might help everyone. | Source

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:

  1. Share ideas and feelings freely
  2. Take turns
  3. Avoid put downs
  4. Work for agreement
  5. 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.

Simplify

Help family members simplify by choosing what is important and what can be left by the wayside. Make plans to give meaningful gifts rather than buying something for everyone.
Help family members simplify by choosing what is important and what can be left by the wayside. Make plans to give meaningful gifts rather than buying something for everyone. | Source

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?

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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.

Enjoy

When we allow ourselves to enjoy the holiday season, with all its beauty and splendor, we will be able to feel the love that only comes at this special time of year.
When we allow ourselves to enjoy the holiday season, with all its beauty and splendor, we will be able to feel the love that only comes at this special time of year. | Source

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.

What do you do to make the holidays enjoyable?

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    • denise.w.anderson profile image
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      Denise W Anderson 3 days ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks, Nancy, that is sweet! Holiday stress can be a real game buster if we are not careful. We have a large immediate family as well as a large extended family. We have to be careful and prioritize or things can really get out of hand. I appreciate your comments!

    • Nancy Owens profile image

      Nancy Owens 4 days ago from USA

      Hello! I saw your article after publishing an article about holiday stress. I think yours is better than mine, Lol! I loved the ideas you listed and that you are so good at explaining your ideas. Don't worry, the content of our respective hubs is not even close. Hope you have a good day or night, wherever you are, and Happy Holidays to you.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image
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      Denise W Anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      You are right, teaches12345. When we simplify our approach to the holidays, we have time to enjoy them. That is what makes them memorable, time with family and friends to celebrate the special occasion.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image
      Author

      Denise W Anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      You are right, teaches12345. When we simplify our approach to the holidays, we have time to enjoy them. That is what makes them memorable, time with family and friends to celebrate the special occasion.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      We don't have stress during the holiday so much that it interferes with our enjoyment. I like your idea to simplify - it's the best approach.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image
      Author

      Denise W Anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      I'm glad that you stopped by, billybuc. Your comment goes to show that it is possible to make holidays an enjoyable time for our families. Keeping our expenses low gives us an opportunity to do other things, like spending time with our loved ones. When all is said and done, that is what is most important anyway.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I don't even remember seeing this on my feed. Oh well, I'm here now. I hope things are well in Bismark. We don't do the stress thing during the holidays. We are a relaxed family, and we do what we can afford to do and that's it. The thrill of the holidays is in spending time with loved ones and that's good enough for us.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image
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      Denise W Anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks for commenting, Eliza and epbooks. Gift giving does not have to be expensive. So often we try to outdo others with our giving, thinking that we have to give the best or biggest gift. It is much better to think about our relationship with the person, and choose something that is meaningful. That way, whether or not they express gratitude for the gift, we feel good because it came from our hearts. The holidays are a special time. We can enjoy them when we concentrate on our relationships rather than all the hustle and bustle.

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Fantastic hub. I agree that gift giving can sometimes be stressful, either for financial reasons for some or because gift selection becomes very difficult. I do enjoy celebrations with family, however, as it's always a good time and I love seeing everyone.

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      Eliza Anderson 3 years ago

      you have many great tips about celebrating the holidays. we often get so rushed; so we need to sit back, brainstorm, and do from scratch what we can with or without buying things.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image
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      Denise W Anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks, MsDora. I was talking with a friend just yesterday. She was flying home on an airplane last week and a woman died mid-flight of a cardiac arrest. There were nurses and a physician's assistant trying to help her but to no avail. We never know when it will be our time to go. When we realize this, we find new ways to make life more enjoyable. We often get stressed at the holidays because we try and do too many things. Keep it simple and you can enjoy the reason for the season!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Your concluding paragraph, "Life is too short . . ." expresses my thoughts exactly. Thank you for the ideas on how to avoid the stress. "Simplify" gets my attention.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image
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      Denise W Anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Yes, mdgardner, children usually take a little longer for a change of focus. We found in our family, that they way to help them obtain the spirit of the season was to have them actually become Santa for someone else! Then they begin to understand what the giving is all about, and feel the love that came when God gave his son, Jesus Christ, to us as a gift.

    • mdgardner profile image

      Martin D Gardner 3 years ago from Virginia Beach

      Great advice. I'm trying to focus on the real meaning of the holiday and less on shopping. Although my children have already put their lists on the refrigerator lol.