Help your family THRIVE through the holidays!

The holidays are fast approaching; and with them the joy and the stress they bring. mistletoe

Some years it seems the joy diminishes and the stress increases as the busy-ness of the times get in the way of the family fun.

Here are some thoughts on increasing the joy and decreasing the stress.

Focus on Connection. Not Perfection.

While it’s fun to show off our cooking skills, our wrapping skills, our decorating skills, etc., the effort we put into achieving perfection can result in less time and energy for connecting with those we love. And really, isn’t the connection what matters?

One way to make the connection front and center is to have family discussions. Sit with your whole family (especially children and teens) and talk about the upcoming holidays. Have the first discussion at the beginning of the school break before things get really busy. Ask your children what makes the holidays the most fun. If your family isn’t practiced at this type of question it might be uncomfortable to ask your kids about what they like best about the family time, and it may seems down-right weird to them to be asked. That’s why as parents we need to have the patience to sit with our kids as they come up with any answer or non-answer to get us to go away. Stick with them. They do have opinions on this.

Once you know what truly matters to your whole family focus on that. If needed, decide as a family what extras can be eliminated to give a more relaxed pace to the whole school vacation schedule. Say “no” to one event? Buy a pie instead of making one? Skip the holiday cards this year? Focus on the stressors you can control. The more rested and relaxed the family feels, the better you all will be able to deal with the stressors out of your control.

Also talk about relatives or friends who cause problems for your children. You might be surprised to learn that your child dislikes, or is uncomfortable around, someone in your circle. You don’t have to eliminate that person, but you can come up with ways to support your child when he/she is in that person’s presence. Talk it over; come up with a plan.

Keep things close to your normal schedule. We all do best when we’re rested. Staying close to the normal eating and sleeping schedule gives us all the extra energy for some of the late nights that might come with the holidays. Keep drinking water, too. Hydration is important for many cognitive functions and emotional regulations.

Be sensitive to your child’s need for private space. Sure, most kids like the holidays and all the energy that come with family and gifts, but they also still need time alone. When teens don’t get the privacy they need, conflict almost always erupts. When and where the privacy happens is something that can be discussed at the beginning of school break, before the gatherings begin. Make the ground rules and then be sure to respect them. A teen who is given time to be alone (especially if they’ve been turned out of their room for guests) is one who is more likely to be helpful.

Blended families have unique challenges. Holidays can bring up memories of “how it used to be”. Holidays are different now. Maybe the day starts out at mom’s and ends at dad’s instead of everyone being together. Maybe there are new siblings in the mix. Starting new traditions helps. New families can create experiences that are the building blocks for making a “this is a family” feeling. It can be as simple as a new board game, a jigsaw puzzle, or a special movie. Do something that wasn’t a part of the old family; that has only been developed since this new family has come into existence.

Laugh instead of yell, when possible. Yes, you spent an hour making the centerpiece your 6th-grader just knocked to the floor. You could yell, or you could state “I liked it better the way I made it, but I can see where you’d like it better that way instead.” Yelling lets you blow off steam for a minute but adds greatly to the stress, in both you and your child. Using humor can bring about an apology and a chance to work together to make it right. Putting things back together as a team helps you bond with your child during what could have been a stressful time.

During this holiday season, remember what’s important. Holidays are about being, not about doing. Holidays are not about perfection. They’re about family, friends and love.

Here’s to a wonderful holiday season for you and yours!