Here we are, right in the midst of the 2020 Holiday Season. This week on episode 4 (season 2) of “One Day You’ll Thank Me”, Anna and I are flying solo and discussing the “Five Ways to Improve Your Holiday Season.”
We want to talk about some ways to make this year's season as enjoyable as possible. Sometimes when we are with our family, we have this fantasy that it is going to be amazing but there are parts of it that really kind of suck. Whether it is with the immediate family, extended family, or maybe figuring out co parenting after a divorce for the holidays. Everyone has their own expectations for what is going to happen during the holidays, but everybody’s expectations are a little bit different and they don’t always match up. This can create some discontentment.
Sometimes certain parts of the holiday can trigger trauma in us from not so stellar holiday memories of the past. I give an example of how my kids bickering while we decorated the tree today, reminded me of how my mom was always super irritable at Christmas and it was always stressful for the whole family. It never failed that someone would break an ornament, and it was always, “the most precious ornament!” Always very stressful.
Now as an adult, when I think of Christmas moments from my childhood, the memories I gravitate towards are moments of stress, even though I know there were many moments that were happy. I think how we go into a new holiday season is influenced by what we focus on from past holidays seasons.
How do you create experiences that are positive and connected with family, that are as content as possible?
1) Letting Go Of Unrealistic Expectations
Remembering that there are going to be good times and bad times. A conversation I have with parents all the time, especially blended families and those who are co parenting who have different traditions and expectations, the mom will say ”I worked so hard to create a special holiday for everyone” and there is always someone that won’t embrace it or cause a kink in the plans that change everything. There can really be a lot of resentment. I need to have them check in with themselves and ask who they are doing all of this for? Is it an expectation that you desire and you are communicating with your kids that you are doing them a favor, when the kids really aren’t excited as you are. Just being more aware of everyone’s desires and not having to make a “picture perfect holiday” based on our own expectations.
2) Giving Advance Notice About Holiday Plans and Expectations
Something that I like to encourage parents (or really anyone), to do is get together as a family and decide what it is that you are going to prioritize during the holidays. Maybe choose the days and times of one, or a few things to get everyone on the same page.
This is especially important for families with teens, who may have their own ideas of what they want to do and what they want to attend. When plans are not communicated or demanded of them and they do not take part, parents often feel abandoned or disrespected or feel that their kids are ungrateful. Giving advance warning of plans and expectations can save a lot of disappointment, as well as create a really fun time for everyone.
3) Recognize that if you are buying technology devices as a gift for your kids, be mindful of the message you are sending to them.
This is a very tech oriented holiday with new gaming and phones coming out. It’s not that I am telling parents not to get these kinds of gifts for their kids by any means, but I want to point out that if that is how your Christmas is going and how you are prioritizing your budget, recognize that you are going to have a corresponding preoccupation with technology. You are not going to be able to give your kid this amazing tech gift and then say, “now make sure you don’t spend a lot of time on this, 1 ½ hours a day is your limit.”
Be aware of the message that you are sending by prioritizing a budget and time to technology that will be going into well past the holidays and decide if that is the message that you are choosing to create for the culture of your home. In the consulting that I do with families on “Managing Your Family’s Technology and Social Media”, I am able to work with these parents on how to handle managing this within the family and create a healthy tech home.
Many of the parents I am working with right now have kids that are asking for these types of expensive tech gifts and the parents are having a hard time saying no to it. But if that kid is someone that is already struggling to step away from tech now and it is a challenge setting limits, that type of gift is not going to improve that situation..
4) Be mindful of what types of gifts are most meaningful to your family members.
There is a great book out there based on love languages, written by Gary Chapman, called the Five Languages of Love. It’s about the ways that people absorb the message that they are loved. Giving tangible gifts is certainly what many of us do at holiday time and if that is what your family members perceive as love go for it, but there are also other ways to show love; physical touch, acts of service, words of affirmation, and quality time. If you are able to indulge them by how you present a gift to them based on their love language, it is going to really enhance the holiday season.
5) Being able to harness a sense of gratitude.
As Anna said, “just because it is the holidays doesn’t mean everything is butterflies and rainbows”. Recognize that others can be experiencing loss and hardships. There is a huge rise in anxiety and anxiety in teens this year as we all know is very different for all of us. Although our kids may not receive the gift that they really wanted or the family is not able to do some traditions or get together with friends and family because of COVID 19, the things that are satisfying to them. It is important to be aware of all the things that are satisfying and that there is still so much to be thankful for. Whether it is having a roof over your head, being healthy, or even just having the ability to FaceTime your loved one.
Let’s all help instill that in our kids and even the “big kids” in our life! ;)
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