‘Tis the season. Well—almost.
Before you know it, candy corn will way to candy canes, and the holiday season will be in full swing.
Unfortunately for many, stress is as much a part of the holidays as eggnog and ugly sweaters. But there are ways to mitigate the challenging aspects of the season so you can focus on making the most of the special time with your family.
Set Expectations with Extended Family
Holidays can bring out strong emotions with extended family. "But we always host...." or "You were there last year, too". Establish ground rules early—long before Thanksgiving.
If there is tension about who you will spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with, consider making Halloween a bigger occasion, and inviting family who might feel neglected later in the year to participate in the fun. Helping with costumes, assisting in trick-or-treating or sifting through candy can be a special time for grandparents, in-laws and other family—even more so if you stress how excited your kids are for it.
If you plan to travel to visit family during the holiday (which can be great), don’t let time with extended family constitute a true vacation for your family. Most people want at least some time to relax on a vacation. And often, the holidays—especially when traveling—don’t afford much in the way of R&R. If you agree to travel for the holidays, also earmark some days on the calendar, perhaps in the summer, where you have time to unwind separate from a family gathering—even if it’s just a staycation.
Resist the Instagram-Photo Urges
No, real families don't have an Instagram-worthy turkey carved at the table (Hello, TurkeyTube!).
No, real families don't have impeccably folded napkins, exquisite table decorations and beautifully flickering candles.
Well some do. But if yours doesn’t, that’s totally OK.
Sure—it feels good to pull out the nice china reserved for special occasions, but only observe traditions that make sense for you. Let go of the notion of a "right" way to celebrate the holidays. The right way is whatever works for you and your family—no one else’s. A beautifully staged Instagram photo of a Thanksgiving table or tree with presents is not a requirement to enjoy the holidays.
If you're a regular Martha Stewart, knock yourself out with every detail of hosting and feel no shame about your handwritten place cards. But if you're like me, Thanksgiving-themed paper plates or a pre-decorated tree can save a lot of time and hassle without compromising any of the spirit of the season.
Focus on Experiences
The best aspects of the holidays are experiences and memories—not whatever is wrapped and under the tree.
If you focus more on experiences than "things", you'll enjoy a much more rewarding holiday season. Be deliberate about your traditions and try to find things that appeal to all ages. Instead of a $200 toy that will be collecting dust in three months, consider taking the family to a holiday show that they'll remember forever.
Your child might be asking for an Elsa doll. But they’ll have memories of Frozen on Ice that will long outlast any stuffed toy.
Get Your Shared Calendar Going (If You Haven’t Already)
The holidays are filled with non-regularly scheduled activities, and it can be easy to double book and miss something important.
A spouse's holiday party. A child's school performance. Your time slot for pictures with Santa.
Shared family calendars are always a good idea.
Calendars can easily be color-coded for quick reference. You may find that your calendar provides value to you well into the new year—and beyond.
Take Time for Yourself!
When kids have time off from school, parents have time off from work, and family members are visiting, it feels as if every moment should be devoted to some well-planned family activity.
But especially during the holidays, care for one’s self is paramount.
It’s completely fine to spend a little extra time relaxing in bed solo. Or scheduling an afternoon out with friends (away from family).
No one will begrudge you taking a little time for yourself. In fact, it will probably have you refreshed and prepared to make the most of your time together with family.