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The Informed Parent

Happy Holidays

by Carolyn Warnemuende, M.S.
Published on Dec. 02, 2013

This is the time of year to make the holidays just right for your family. Finding the way to create them so that you, as well as the children, enjoy each moment takes time. The rewards are worth it. Sadly, a word most used as the holidays approach is stress. Some of you stress because you try to do too much and feel worn out. Maybe you think you aren’t doing enough or as much as you used to do. Either way, you are being robbed of vitality and of the joy that you would like to feel. It’s time to let go of the stress and enjoy the season.

Perhaps the best way to make sure the holidays fit for your family is to look at your values. Some of you would like to make them simpler. One could entertain less, buy fewer gifts, decorate more simply or even send minimal cards. Yet you get caught up on other’s expectations, advertising, or past experiences of the holidays. There are some of you who thoroughly enjoy the fanfare and festivities. Money has been saved so that you can go all out for the season. Now guilt comes in to play because you do not want to simplify, yet feel that you should. Regardless of what you like, let’s look at ways to do it so that when the special day arrives you are as excited and happy as the children.

If You Want To Simplify

Those of you who want to simplify might feel that the children will be disappointed. Make a family project of deciding what traditions to keep and which no longer serve. When kids are involved in decision-making, they buy into changes. Here are some things to consider. Your family will come up with other ideas.

  • Decorate less.
    Whatever holiday tradition you observe, Hanukkah, Eid, Christmas, or others, decorate half as much as usual. Put out the decorations most loved by your family and forget the rest.
  • Cut back on cooking.
    Prepare a simple meal without all the trimmings. Take a family vote about the menu. You might be surprised at what the kids choose. Your meal may not look anything like it has in the past. I know a family who ended up having subway turkey sandwiches and homemade ice cream sundaes. They thought it was their best Christmas dinner ever.
  • Use paper dishes.
    Now this is a big one. I’m an avid recycler, so this suggestion isn’t easy to make. I try, however, to balance the use of paper against how much water, soap, and time it takes to wash a large batch of dishes. Colorful paper holiday ware can be purchased inexpensively at Dollar Stores or at the end of the season and saved for later use. Cheerful plates, napkins, and cups add to the festivity of a simple meal and make cleaning up a breeze.
  • Send cards differently.
    Instead of sending holiday cards in December, send them for another holiday. I have a friend who sends her Christmas cards in July. I always look forward to its arrival. To save on paper and postage, send e-cards to your friends.
  • Party later.
    Have a holiday party in a different month. Once I gave a “Christmas Party” in June with all the trimmings. The guests loved it because it was unique.
  • Cut back on gifting.
    Have each family member make a gift list knowing that perhaps two gifts from the list will be received. Initially you might hear groans from the kids, but they adjust quickly.

Breaking the cycle of big holidays requires looking carefully at your values and taking the leap of making this year one of change. Everything doesn’t have to be done at once. Maybe this December you do one or two things differently. Next year you may do more. The important thing is to decide as a family how to celebrate and then to enjoy the choices you have made.

If You Want To Go All Out

Some of you love this time of year more than any other. You enjoy spending the time and energy making the holidays special by doing as much as you can. If this is you, bring the family in on the decisions about making the most of the season. Here are some ideas to get you started so that you aren’t exhausted when the special day arrives.

  • Give up perfectionism,
    When you want it all, one may strive to have home and holiday meals look like a magazine picture. This simply isn’t possible with kids around. Keep decorations and food child-friendly. Everyone will have more fun.
  • Share the responsibility.
    Whether it is decorating, cooking or wrapping gifts, participating builds enthusiasm. Let family members help with jobs of their choice. Little ones love showing guests the decorations they put up or the cookies they helped  bake. Older children are no less proud of their participation in creating a special time.
  • Live within your means.
    Even if one has saved to make the season the highlight of the year, live within your budget. Nothing can dampen spirits as much as knowing that after the holidays excessive bills will have to be paid.
  • Take a break.
    The holidays are more fun for the whole family when there is time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Read holiday stories, sing together, or watch a seasonal TV show. Get enough rest, and spend enjoyable time alone with your partner. 
  • Know when enough is enough.
    It is exhausting to work on holiday projects up to the zero hour. There is nothing wrong with quitting the buying, baking, making, and doing before you are as finished as you would like. Give yourself a break. Stop to enjoy what you have accomplished.

As I look at the cover of magazines, I notice that there is much emphasis on simplifying life. Not everyone wants to simplify. Perhaps you don’t, and for that you feel guilty. You may think you should want to. Take a look at your values, at the things you like to do, and the ways you like to do them. If you want to go all out, toss guild out the window and enjoy the ride.

Whether you simplify or go the whole nine yards, consider giving to someone less fortunate than you. Most malls have Christmas trees with names of those needing a gift. Many churches have giving programs. Most communities have a holiday meal for the homeless where volunteer servers are welcomed, including children. There is no better way to teach children the art of giving than to participate in a project that reaches beyond the family and into the community.

However you choose to celebrate the holidays, I wish you the most joyous of seasons.

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