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The Informed Parent

Keep It Simple Keep It Fun

by Carolyn Warnemuende, M.S.
Published on Dec. 03, 2012

The holiday season is here. Hanukkah and Christmas are just around the corner. Decorations transform homes into fairylike places, gifts are hidden away from curious eyes, and magic is in the air. Families and friends join together to celebrate spiritual and secular traditions.

While this time of year can bring joy, many parents take on too much and feel stressed. Instead of experiencing delight, they are exhausted. If this sounds familiar, the following steps will help you enjoy the excitement of the season along with your children.

Choose With Reason

Perhaps your family has gone over the top with celebrating in years past. If so, sit together and talk about what needs to be done to make this year enjoyable for everyone. Tell the children that you want to have fun, too, and that this means doing less. While they may groan or not understand what that means, brainstorm together what each person’s priorities are, then begin the process of choice.

Decorate With Reason

I know families who begin decorating for the winter holidays shortly after Halloween. While their homes look lovely, by the time they’re finished, they are tired and wonder why they went to all the effort. Decorate with favorite family decorations or with items that have sentimental value. Put out the decorations the children make at school. They love knowing they have contributed. Use decorations that children can touch. Holiday decorations are enticing, and if they can’t be touched, part of the joy of having them is lost. Remember that all the decorations you use also need to be put away. Keep it simple and easy for yourself. 

Play Within Reason

Families can choose among a myriad of activities during the season. List all the activities that the family enjoys doing. Choose three or four that everyone agrees on. This may mean leaving out some of what you have done in previous years. Decide which traditional activities you want to keep and which need to be discarded to make room for something new.

Gift Within Reason

Some families spend so much on holiday gifts that they pay on them for several months thereafter. This causes stress. Set a holiday budget, and stick with it. Talk to the children about wise spending. Instead of each child receiving several expensive gifts, have them prioritize their wishes. Give them the top choice on the list if it is within your means. If not, talk with them about why you, or Santa, will choose something different. This helps to relieve disappointment on the day the gift is received and teaches them good financial habits for the future.

Cook Within Reason

Holiday parties and dinners usually offer too much food and require long hours of preparation. Give yourself a break. Prepare a simple meal so that you have time to spend with the family and friends. A main dish, two side dishes, and a light dessert are plenty. If your family has traditional family dishes they enjoy, include one. All aren’t necessary.

What It's All About

The holidays are a time to commemorate and deepen spiritual traditions and to enjoy secular customs. They are a time to focus on loved ones. They are a time to cozy in and enjoy the coming of winter. It takes dedication and commitment to open the time and space for this kind of quieter celebration.

It will be hard paring down how you celebrated in the past. You may grieve the loss of some of what you did before. You will also be amazed at the sense of freedom, the lack of fatigue, and the true joy you feel as you celebrate a simpler holiday season.

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