Teaching Gratitude (and what to do when your kids aren't so grateful...)

Decoding Family Holiday Traditions and Doing What Counts

Boy with Christmas Tree
Just thinking about the holiday season and the hustle and bustle that comes with it can trigger stress for many of us. We have come to a point in our society where trying to “make memories” can sometimes feel overwhelming, exhausting and way less magical than we bargained for. In addition, there are SO MANY THINGS now. An astonishing number of holiday events can fill your calendar to a point that no sane, reasonable, working (or not working) parent could do them all… nor should you. Here are my top tips for staying true to your family values and creating traditions that make sense for your family while keeping the spirit of Christmas alive all season.

 

Talk to your people

Start here. Start by having either a group conversation or individual conversations with your family to see what they most love out of all the things your family does during the holidays. You may be surprised! Once you have this information, you have a guide for where to place most of your focus and some areas to cross off the list.  It’s still important to remember that potentially not everyone will have the same things at the top of the list. This is ok because you can at least cut out what no one feels attached to at all.

 

Remember that even the little things are traditions

What I find is that we often don’t recognize the little things we do are still traditions. Sometimes it takes our little ones saying, “When are we doing _______? We ALWAYS do_______?” It could be setting up the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving or taking the time to read The Night Before Christmas or Polar Express. Remember that memories are not created by the SIZE of our actions and efforts but instead by the FEELING that’s created by them.

 

Cut the holiday fat -> Evaluate if the effort is worth the outcome

Even with checking in on your loved ones to see which events they do and do not love during the holiday season, you still have to evaluate what you feel works and doesn’t work for your family. There may be some things that feel good but simply aren’t worth the effort or time involved and need to be adjusted or cut altogether. For us this has been Christmas cookies. I have great memories of baking and decorating Christmas confections with my mom and sister during the holidays. I wanted to pass this tradition on to my own children. What I found was that my kids didn’t seem to enjoy it nearly as much as I had hoped and, considering the time, effort and mess involved, it really wasn’t worth continuing to mandate that this be an activity we make time for and do every single year. Now we do this when or if we have time and /or take short cuts (ie: pre-made dough is AMAZING) to help make baking and decoration more fun and enjoyable - the way I wanted it to be in the first place.

 

Balance what we do for ourselves and what we do for others

So for many of us the spirit of Christmas is very nestled into the value of givingBy incorporating opportunities to give or serve others you will again help balance both your energy as well as what your kids prioritize. It could be picking angels from a tree, serving meals in the community, or making boxes for Operation Christmas Child. Any way you shake it everyone will walk away with GREAT feelings about this one and will most likely look forward to this every year, along with instilling memories that will last a lifetime.

 

Plan it out

Once you know what you want to prioritize, planning out when or if they fit into your schedule is a good idea. Keeping a calendar may not be your favorite thing, but it’s essential to feeling less stressed. Knowing when things will be happening - and not racking your brain about when you’ll be able to fit it all in – will give you much-needed peace of mind during all the holiday chaos. Plus, you then have a way of deciding if any of the extra things (ie: church festival, caroling around the neighborhood, an invitation to a cookie swap, or anything else that comes up outside your priorities) will fit into your schedule, or if you just need to pass.

 

Remember that whatever you choose to do is ENOUGH!

No matter what you do it’s ENOUGH!  Spending time together, honoring your values, and having fun are the big goals. Whatever you choose to do, it will be fabulous. And you will be your family’s Christmas Star!

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