10 Tips for a Happy Holiday Season
Parents often find the holiday season stressful, but it doesn't have to be that way.
The holiday season, exciting and magical when experienced as a child, often creates chaos and stress for parents, burning us out before we even get to celebrate with our families. Shopping, family commitments, and never-ending to-do lists often aggravate a season that is supposed to be focused on family and fun. So, how can you handle the demands and expectations you have as well as those of your family while preparing for the holidays?
Manage Your Expectations
What is most important to you? What do you want the season to be about? Focus on a good balance that works for you and is easy to adhere to, especially when the demands of the holiday season increase. Prior to becoming parents, many couples travel between their respective families; however, after the arrival of their first child, they often discover they wish to establish their own family traditions at home. Their nuclear family becomes their priority.
Prioritize Your To-Do List
Prioritize what is important to you. Decide what you have and do not have time for, what may create stress for you. Pare your list down. Create your to-do list; write it down. For example, do you need to mail out all of those seasonal cards? I long ago let go of mailing cards. They took a lot of time, and were expensive. I email friends with updates on our family if I find I have the time, however only if the more important priorities have been accomplished.
Slow Down and Manage Your Time
The holiday season is festive, beautiful, noisy, and oh-so-busy. Resist doing too much. Move from multi-tasker to mono-tasker. What else can you take off of your to-do list? Get started as early as possible. Create your plan of action. How you are going to complete your to-do list? Sit down with your calendar and plan ahead. Schedule certain blocks of time and establish deadlines for accomplishing what you want.
Manage Your Budget
Create your budget and stick to it. I try to use cash for purchases as much as possible because it helps me stay within my budget. Consider using layaway or redeeming credit card points for the bigger ticket items, if available. Begin your shopping early to spread the expenses out.
Control Your Kids’ Demands
Turn off the TV and do not shop with your kids. Like us, they are barraged with advertising. Have you ever walked through a toy store with a young child? A calm happy child can turn into a whiny one within minutes.
Go over your children’s expectations prior to the season. Take each of them to the store for a “looking” trip. Explain ahead of time that this is what you’re doing.
Set a gift rule. We have a three-gift limit, tying into the story of the Three Wise Men. Some families set their limits by usage, for example something to read, to wear, and to enjoy.
Create New Traditions or Honor Old Ones
In our family, baking is a tradition I enjoyed with my mom and later introduced into our family. Baking takes a lot of time, but offers the opportunity to slow down, connect, and create. I carve out chunks of hours, weeks ahead of the holiday season. We freeze the cookies, bars and breads until we are ready to gift or consume them.
Flip the Switch on Giving
Kids can come to appreciate giving while they learn about greed and receiving. Watch "A Christmas Carol." Focus on others who are not as fortunate as you and your family, especially during the holiday season.
There are plenty of opportunities to teach your kids about giving and compassion for others. Look for local toy drives, or a giving tree, where you can provide for a child or a family. Encourage your kids to be as involved as possible with wrapping and gift delivery.
Create a Holiday Playlist
Listening to music relieves stress and anxiety, and lowers blood pressure. Holiday music can help to bring on the cheer. Crank it up. Sing along.
Communing with nature is good for your body, mind and soul, regardless of the time of day. Being outside can improve your immune functions and elevates the mood. When did you last take the time to gaze at the clouds or stars, or sit close enough to listen to the soothing sound of running water? When did you last sled, throw snowballs, or build a snowman?
Be sure to schedule “me time,” when blocking time to accomplish your to-do list. Enter this important respite into your smart phone or your planner. Take a minimum of 20 minutes to decompress, listen to music, read, walk, etc.
Clear your head. Every day. It is difficult to manage the needs of the other members of your family if you do not address your needs.
Focus on keeping your holiday season simple and family-oriented. You will find that you and yours will be happy and bright.