‘Tis the season to celebrate the holidays. We are surrounded by “holiday cheer”, from holiday displays in store windows to commercials we see showing glowing images of happy, holiday gatherings. For many of us though, the holidays aren’t ideal; our version of things isn’t like the Hallmark movies. In fact, the holiday season for many is highly stressful. So how can we still find joy when the holidays can be challenging?
Keep your expectations realistic: Very few families look like those in the holiday commercials. The pressure to be happy can make for unrealistic expectations. To avoid disappointment, lower your expectations or change your definition of a successful holiday.
If your children can’t get every gift you would like – remember all the gifts of love you give everyday.Teach your child that “gifts” come in many forms. If money is an issue, create low-cost, family traditions instead for your child that can make the time feel special. Read holiday themed stories, make cards for loved ones, bake cookies, make crafts, and sing along to holiday music.
If family conflict dampens your holiday spirit, remember If things don’t go as well as you would like, resist the idea that the day is ruined. All or nothing thinking is problematic in any scenario. If the day went well for the most part, focus there- there is no “perfect day”.
Place Limits on Family Gatherings: However, if holidays often result in serious family conflict, try setting some boundaries that can make for a better time for all. For example, if problems tend to occur after several hours, limit the time you spend together. Plan a set time to arrive and leave.
Alcohol can often play a role in family conflicts; consider minimizing or eliminating alcohol consumption at family gatherings.
Try adding structure to your time together. Unstructured time can open up opportunities for discord. Think about having structured activities for children and adults such as playing games, making crafts, or watching movies.
Create a “family” to celebrate with: If celebrating with your family causes you great stress, or if there aren’t family members to celebrate with, create a holiday tradition with friends. There are no rules saying the holidays can only be spent with your biological family if this isn’t a choice that brings you happiness. There can also be “family” that we choose, and celebrating with them can also bring us joy!
The gift of giving: The beauty of giving to others is that doing so is also a gift to ourselves in many ways. Are there people in your life who you can show kindness to this holiday season? This doesn’t have to be a monetary gift or something you buy, but the gift of your time or a thoughtful gesture can bring happiness to someone who needs it. By giving in this way, we can find greater peace as well. We can feel more appreciative of what we do have when we help those less fortunate. Gratitude brings greater contentment.
Identify what YOUR holiday will look like: We are responsible for finding our own joy, therefore if people or situations rob you of your joy at the holidays, create situations for yourself that won’t, with the strategies above. Set limits around your exposure to toxic people or situations and let go of your ideas of what the holidays are “supposed” to be. You can redefine the holidays for yourself and your children and make them special, if not perfect!