GETTING THROUGH THE HOLIDAYS STRESS-FREE WITH YOUR FAMILY
Holidays are supposed to be filled with joy, warmth, and generosity. However, too often, holidays mean stress and anxiety. You expect to have a nice, shared time with your family and maybe attend some larger family gatherings while your children may expect to receive every gift they demand, spend their school break playing video games and staying up late.
In order to avoid disillusions, here are a few tips about how to handle the holidays more peacefully:
1. Be realistic about your expectations. Your child is probably not going to spend most of her day helping you prepare the food and decorate the whole house. So, let go of expectations for how things will go or should be. If you start the season thinking you will enjoy the season if your child is compliant and behaves, then chances are you will not enjoy the holidays.
2. Let go of your own stress. Since children are very sensitive to adult stress and internalize feelings easily, make sure that you manage your own stress by acknowledging your feelings, reaching out, planning ahead, and learning to say no.
3. Assign specific tasks to your child. In order to avoid tension, power struggles, and potential conflicts, ask your child to do practical tasks. For instance, you can suggest “How about answering the door when the bell rings and take the guests’ coats as they arrive.”
4. Create your holidays. Since each of us is unique, so should be your holidays. You do not have to spend your holidays the way your family always did nor the way you think everyone else does. Instead, sit down with your family and brainstorm ideas about how to celebrate the holidays this year. Maybe, this year you will not travel and instead stay home to have dinner together.
5. Do not compare yourself or your family to others. Even if it is human nature to compare ourselves to others, try to avoid it as the result may trigger your anxiety. One consequence might be to try to force your children to behave a certain way so you can live up to the picture you have in your head. The essential aspect is to accept the family you have, not the one you might wish you had. Focus on the uniqueness of your family and enjoy it.
Having reasonable expectations for how the holidays will go, planning ahead together as a family, and making your holidays specific to your family will help avoid tensions and conflicts during this season.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.