Truly Enjoying The Holidays
by Kathy Slattengren, M. Ed., Priceless Parenting (sign up for monthly parenting newsletter and receive 20+ printable charts for kids and parents)
How do you feel when you think about all the activities of the holidays? Is your heart racing when you remember all the things you want to get done? The holidays are an especially busy time for parents. You want to make them special for your children. You don’t want their main memory to be how stressed out you were!
The holidays bring once-a-year rituals and events. While some of these events may bring you joy, others may feel like obligations that rob you of energy. Your enjoyment of this time of year can be increased by setting reasonable expectations in terms of both time and gifts.
Take a step back and consider your top priorities for the holidays.
Spending Special Time Together
Families spend more time together at the holidays. How does the rhythm of your family change with your kids on a break from school?
Does everyone have time to slow down and catch their breath? Or are you more likely to find yourself holding your breath while navigating through extra tension?
Mindfully deciding on how to spend your time and energy over the holidays can increase your joy. When you think of your own childhood what are your fondest holiday memories? What holiday traditions would you like your kids to remember when they are your age?
Do your favorite memories include any of the following?
- Baking cookies or other special food
- Decorating the house together
- Sipping hot chocolate with candy canes as stirring sticks
- Attending a religious service
- Walking or driving around looking at light displays
- Going to a holiday concert or play
- Watching a special holiday show
- Going sledding, building a snowman
- Volunteering to help families less fortunate
Activities that allow you to connect with each other create lasting memories. The things you do together are more important than the gifts you give them. You can check this out by asking them if they remember what presents you gave them last year. What do they recall receiving? Next ask them what they remember doing over the holidays last year. What were their favorite activities?
Preparing for Difficult Emotions
The holidays are a time of big emotions. There are extra special activities to fill your evenings and weekends. Gatherings with family are ripe for strong emotions – positive and negative.
You can take steps to make your family gatherings less stressful by delegating duties and planning activities
If someone in your family is experiencing a health issue or an addiction issue, you may feel a sense of loss.
The holidays are especially difficult the first year after someone close to you has died.
Processing grief takes time
. It’s healing to acknowledge your pain and be extra kind to yourself. Stuffing your emotions or smiling when you feel like crying leads to more agony.
Your kids learn how to process difficult emotions from watching you. Difficult emotions are like waves on the ocean.
They rise up and then they retreat. Acknowledging and owning these emotions helps heal the pain.
Giving Gifts That Increase Authentic Happiness
Gift giving can be challenging. Your kids may want gifts that you can’t afford or don’t want in your family. Perhaps your child wants a pony and you don’t have the space nor the desire for it. Or your child wants a smart phone and you believe they are too young.
Set your kids’ expectations ahead of time. Let them know that you will not be giving them something that may cause significant problems within your family.
How can you select gifts for your kids that help them grow in healthy ways? Choose gifts that will allow you to breathe more easily. Just because your child wants something and you can afford to buy it, does not make it a good choice. If a gift will cause a lot of extra work or worry for you, do not get it. Your children may be disappointed but they will get over it.
You want to avoid giving your child a gift that will lead to problems. One mom struggled with what to give her 12-year-old son, Mark. A few months earlier Mark had started seeing a psychologist to deal with his addiction to pornography. Mom had taken away his electronics as recommended by the psychologist. She decided to give Mark a Kindle that he wanted for reading books. Much to her dismay, Mark was looking at pornography on the Kindle within a day.
Your gift selecting is made more difficult by commercials filled with kids overjoyed with opening their expensive presents. These rehearsed, scripted scenes are designed to pressure you into buying whatever they are selling. Talk to your kids about how advertising makes it look like happiness comes from owning more things.
Discuss how authentic happiness comes from things like closeness to others, gratitude, acts of kindness and living a meaningful life
The holidays provide an opportunity to spend time with loved ones creating cherished holiday memories
. May you enjoy many magical moments together!