The Holidays can be a beautiful time of the year with the lights illuminating each door and window dressed in their finest. However, it can also be a hard time of the year for a multitude of reasons. The holidays are a marker much like our birthdays bringing focus to where we are in our lives and perhaps where we aren’t. They also encompass a great deal of energy and happening: people traveling, gift buying, stress around getting the perfect something for each person, trying to be with a multitude of people either all at once or in many places in a very short period of time, and these are only if we have or are in contact with our families. For parents who are incredibly busy in our culture to begin with it adds additional stress. If you are on your own or choosing to be there are the images of the perfect holiday scenes everywhere you turn, on commercials, every store you shop in, via friend’s and coworker’s plans juxtaposed with what your life looks like at this time of the year. This can be difficult because there aren’t any scenes of us enjoying the holidays on our own or in less traditional contexts in which we can see our own experience reflected.
When it comes to family so many of our holidays are prescribed to us from the time we are very little: ie what we do and how we do it during this time. So here are a couple of tips if you are going to be with your family at this time of year.
-Take some time, perhaps just a couple of minutes by yourself to think about what you would like for your holidays. Perhaps a tradition that you already have that makes you feel good or think of one you would like to bring into your life at this time. My best friend and I try to bake cookies each year and I also bake something delicious and healthy every year for my family. This is the tradition which marks the holidays for me each year.
-If you have many places to be try to organize, to the best of your ability, these places in a way that works for you and your family. Try to be realistic about how long you and your kids can actually be at any one place before a meltdown occurs.
-If you need to be at one place that can be stressful really think about organizing your time in a way that creates the least stress. When the tension escalates:
*Leave the table to get a drink, go to the bathroom, make a phone call, get a breath of fresh air.
-If you are going to be with family for a long period of time create breaks in the time.
*Go for a long walk/ exercise
*Find a short trip to go on in the area without your family, by yourself or with your partner or a family member that is low maintenance
* take naps
*Don’t feel as if you have to get up and go to sleep en masse
-If there is abuse in your family or extreme tension consider staying at a hotel and/or limiting your time
-If there is a particular person(s) that is hard for you contemplate ahead of time how you would like to handle the situation that usually arises. If relevant discuss it with your partner or whomever you are traveling with for the holidays ahead of time so that you are clear on how you would like to respond.
-As a parent there is significant pressure to buy exactly what your child wants. Remember that you are the one that teaches your child about value and this is a good time of the year to begin this teaching. When I think about the holidays I cannot remember one gift that I received it is mostly the feeling of the holidays that I remember. In some ways that is what we want to impart to the next generation and this doesn’t cost anything but thoughtfulness. It is also a great time to incorporate service of some kind.
If you are on your own, which I have been many time in my life during this time of year which was hard at times and other times quite a relief, decide how you would like to spend your holidays. Is there a movie you would like to see or a service you would like to engage in? Like delivering meals to the elderly. Have a meal with friends or prepare a special one for yourself. Try to think of this time as precious rather than something to get through. Create your own tradition. Decorate, bake, if you have the money visit someone you love or go on a trip somewhere you would like to go.
Remember the holidays are a way of ushering out the old year and in the new year. They are supposed to be a break for us so try to treat them at least a little bit in this way. The holidays tend to feel much better to us if we really think about how we would like them to be rather than having them prescribed to us by our family or our culture. May the holidays be an enjoyable and peaceful time of year for you and your family.