Your home is festively decorated, exactly as you want it to be – every ornament is carefully positioned on the tree, and strings of garland and lights frame the doorways. The sweet smell of freshly baked cookies and the warmth from a crackling fire reach to every corner. Your children are filled with gleeful anticipation as they wonder what is inside the biggest packages under the tree. As you stand back to take it all in, you are filled with pride that you have created such an idyllic Christmas for your family to enjoy and cherish in their memories for years to come.
Unfortunately, many people approach the holiday with these sorts of expectations and end up pretty disappointed by the realities. By the time Christmas rolls around, the angelic little children in the scenario above have likely been off their schedules a couple days too many and eaten more sweets during the past weeks than the rest of the year combined, and are now prone to tantrums at the slightest provocation. You are likely exhausted from weeks of working, shopping, decorating, baking, wrapping gifts, stuffing stockings and attending various holiday parties and might, like your children, also be prone to tantrums at the slightest provocation. So, what’s the answer – to expect holiday disasters akin to a Clark Griswold Christmas and just be content to avoid catastrophe? That seems a bit extreme, so let’s look at some proactive steps you can take to make the holidays as joyful as possible.
If you have young children, you might find this time of year to be particularly magical. Maybe you spent some of your children’s very early years looking forward to a time when they would really understand the excitement of the season so you could share your favorite movies, cookies and holiday traditions with them. This can make it awfully tempting to start letting them stay up a little later to finish watching the holiday movie of the night. Or maybe you enjoy baking lots of Christmas cookies and it just doesn’t seem right not to let your children try a cookie from each batch that comes fresh from the oven. However, the earlier in the season that schedules and rules of the household are relaxed, the more likely you are to have children who are completely out of sorts and totally incapable of behaving by the time Christmas rolls around. This won’t be fun for anyone, so try to stick to the regular routine as long as possible. Children crave rules and boundaries – they make them feel safe – even during the holiday season.
If you have teenagers who might stop texting long enough to throw water on you if you were actually on fire, but are otherwise not too interested in engaging, don’t expect them to be excited about family time just because the calendar is turned to December. Be clear and reasonable with them about your expectations. Consider identifying several dates during their break that you expect them to engage in family activities and let them spend the remaining dates with their friends. It may even be helpful to allow them to have some say in the dates that are reserved for family. Considering their input is a way to acknowledge that they are growing into adults – they will likely appreciate this respect.
So you’ve taken care of your children, young and old – what about you? How can you take care of yourself during this festive but exhausting time of year? Well, taking care of yourself is much like taking care of your children – stick to your schedule as much as possible and be reasonable with your expectations of yourself. Avoid over-committing. If you work, your partner works, you have children and friends, and are involved in various organizations, then you are likely getting invited to a lot of parties right now. Just because you are invited doesn’t mean you have to go. Pick the ones that you are actually interested in attending, go to those and send your regrets for the others. If food is an issue you struggle with, try to avoid overindulging for the entire month of December, but allow yourself to have some treats that you really enjoy and do it guilt-free. Finally, avoid overspending. You don’t have to buy an extravagant gift for everyone you have ever met. Create a reasonable budget and stick to it; especially in this economy, it truly is the thought that counts. Try this for a golden rule – be as kind to yourself as your children want Santa to be to them.
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Lean on Your Partner to Make It Through the Holidays
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© Copyright 2011 by By Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.