Avoiding Holiday Stress: Part I

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There is no way around it! Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, this time of year is hectic. I feel as though the holidays have begun before I’ve even finished washing the dishes from Thanksgiving dinner! With all the hustle and bustle of shopping, wrapping gifts, cooking, cleaning, and traveling, it is easy to lose sight of what is really important – family, friends, and fun!

I know I lost track of the fun while my son was little. I remember driving to my parent’s home for the holidays with him in the back seat whining all the way because he wanted some toy that I probably couldn’t afford.

So how do we balance it all and not get frustrated? What’s the solution? How do we find time to get it all done and still enjoy our children?

  1. Start some new traditions.

Talk to your children about starting some new family traditions. For example, if you enjoy an Advent Calendar for the Christmas countdown, how about changing it up a bit? Instead of a calendar, wrap up 24 short stories;  start a tradition that every night between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, your child gets to unwrap one book. Now, you and your child spend 10 minutes reading a Christmas story together. If your child is older, you can read a chapter book, one chapter per night. This accomplishes two things: first, it gives you a few quiet moments each day together, and second, it helps your child with reading. Reading together is a wonderful way to help your child become a great reader…and that is the gift of a lifetime!

2. Be sure to check out your local library.

The library will often have pleasant holiday activities for children on the schedule. While your child is busy with the library activity, you can check out some holiday books to use for the activity above.

3. Think about paying it forward.

This is a season of giving. Plan some quiet time for yourself by having your child/ren work on a charitable project. Here are some ideas to get you started… What is your child interested in? Does s/he love to draw? What about drawing some cards to send to folks in the hospital? Let’s not forget our soldiers overseas. Children can send holiday wishes to soldiers far from family and friends.

4. Simplify.

Another way to combine fun and family (and save money) is to create a tradition of making some of the gifts. Your child can help. For example, take a copy of a favorite family photo. Mount it on a piece of cardboard and cut it up. Now you have a puzzle! Use leftover baby jars, some glitter, and water and you’ve got a snow globe! There are many great ideas out there for fun family gifts that you and your children can make. You would be amazed at the things you can do with everyday items such as toilet paper rolls, marshmallows, buttons, popsicle sticks, glue, paint, and some glitter!  Do a simple search on the internet for “Christmas Crafts for Kids” and you will find tons of ideas!

5. Give.

The advantage to having your children make some of the gifts is “ownership”.  When children are “given”, it creates a sense of entitlement. When children “give”, psychologists tell us that human bonds are strengthened. There is greater joy in giving than in receiving and this is a lesson we should allow our children to learn. Could your child sacrifice one of his gifts to donate to the needy? What about finding a few older toys in the house that could be given to an orphanage or to a family who has lost everything to a fire?

6. Set limits.

Some families have put a limit on how many gifts are expected. Jesus received just three gifts from the Wise Men. Could you limit your giving for each child to three gifts? Other families have set items: one item of clothing, one book,  one toy, and one gift of food for each person. Other families set an expectation that each member will receive only one gift from each person in the family…one gift from mom, one from dad, one from sister, one from brother. You get the idea. Setting boundaries such as these accomplishes two things: 1. You will be less stressed trying to wrap a mountain of gifts and, 2. Your child will know what to expect ahead of time and will have realistic expectations.

So, take a deep breath…relax…make a plan…enjoy this precious time of year.  Twenty years from now, your child won’t remember the video game that was under the tree this year, but s/he will remember the time spent with you.  Merry Christmas!