A reprieve from holiday stress: Unmet expectations, co-parenting conflict and family.

The holidays can be magical.

They can also be hell, can’t they?

When my kids were growing up, I had VERY conflicted feelings about Christmas, which is what we celebrate. 

Which of these things are coming up for you? 

1. Expectations of how things will go that never seem to happen?

2. Co-parenting conflict is sucking joy out of the holidays?

3. Tensions with family of origin or even full out fighting?

Ready for some great news?

Myself and so many of us at Great Parenting Simplified can attest to the fact that all of these things can dramatically improve.  I‘m going to share a few tips for how to make this holiday season better, and then at the end, I’ll share about other ways to get support to finally have the holiday season you want to provide for your precious kiddos. 

Not only I have been in holiday hell, but so has each one of the moms, dads and coaches who work with Great Parenting Simplified Nonprofit Cooperative.  We need hope to make changes, so I’ll share a few stories that will show you how much is possible.

1. Expectations that rob the season of SOOO much joy

Year after year when my kids were little, the holiday season would approach and I’d think, “This year, it’s going to be different”.  Yet for years, the gist of the season was the same.  Christmas letters didn’t go out.  Not near as much baking as I thought should be done, happened.  And my dream of raising kids who appreciated the joy of going to the Nutcracker Suite ballet, like I had as a child?  It was pushed back yet another year.

Eventually I learned that what was most important was a few simple traditions.  I learned to lower my expectations with my kids, and have way better results (read more about the surprising way that lowering expectations can improve things in your family, here).  I became much more relaxed about the holidays, and started to enjoy them way more.  And I started to see that what I was able to do was enough; the kids have great memories of things like our quirky, mismatched Christmas ornaments and our almost-every-single year gingerbread houses, sometimes from kits, often from a recipe. 

Then this year, the holiday season started off in the most magical of ways!!! 

My son, who knew how much I’d always wanted to take them to the Nutcracker Suite ballet, surprised me with tickets for the three of us!  That’s us in the photo at the top! The kids enjoyed it so much they thought we should do it again next year. 

I was so touched and delighted!  I’ve learned a lot since those early years about the power of accepting what is, so that we can make the most of what’s possible.  I learned that if we keep our relationship strong, we can extend our parenting window.  In this case, it means that my desire to give them that memory of the magic of the ballet, happened when they are in their early twenties!  What a wild fact that my son made my dream for his childhood happen too?!!!  (When we can relax about our expectations, including how quickly they are met, it’s wild to witness the creative ways the universe can provide for us.) 

Have you ever tortured yourself with the concept that developmental windows are being missed? 

I used to practically live there, until I learned to quit beating my head against the wall, as that only made what I wanted even less likely to happen.  A stressed out parent is not near as effective.  So I learned to trust that my kids could end up like me, a very happy and successful adult, despite my far-from-perfect childhood (I share about one of the traumatic events of my childhood in Mother’s Day Blues (greatparentingsimplified.com)

Have you heard of neuroplasticity?  Developmental windows speaks to normal, usual ways that development happens.  But just like a river never runs straight, a significant amount of growth happens outside of those windows.  Neuroplasticity refers to the fact that we can grow and change until the day we die.  My fears again and again have proven untrue, as my kids have turned out very well.  Those same fears though had to get tamed to help my kids get to a great place, as that fear creates an environment that hinders maturation and fosters mental health issues. 

I had a story that if they weren’t exposed to the ballet or the symphony as a child, they wouldn’t be able to appreciate those art forms.  I’m tickled to tell you that both Sam and Lauren loved the ballet!!!  As I reflected on it, they had both been quite involved in drama and they love music and poetry, so it’s not that surprising.  I so wish I’d known that though in those early years when I was stressing out. 

What a gift to see that what I was able to provide my precious kids was enough to leave them ready to experience the beauty of ballet!   

 One of our senior coaches, Maureen, nailed this topic here: 

A Little Less Hallmark, a Little More Charlie Brown (greatparentingsimplified.com)

2. Co-parenting conflict that makes everything SOOO much harder

The increased interaction with my co-parent caused massive bumps.  Have you been there, done that and got a t-shirt you hate?

Little did I know that I was being offered the HUGE opportunity to start to learn how to deal with conflict. 

My impetus was my high conflict marriage.  The stress went 0 to 60 fast around our household.  That left me with three choices: 

1. Suck up my feelings.

2. Fight in front of the kids.

3. See what could be changed. 

I found myself being unable to be the parent I wanted to be for my kids unless I learned how to open door number 3, to see what could be changed.

For some powerful tips on what you can do right now to reduce co-parenting conflict, watch my interview with Cindy Lish below.  She specializes in empowering mothers with the confidence, tools, and skills to return to the workforce.   It was a great interview that covers: 

– What conflict does to your children?  Points include:

  • Models intolerance 
  • Makes them anxious at a primal level
  • Can contribute to other parent behaving poorly to your child

– How to deal with conflict constructively?

– What to do when your partner is being mean to your child?

– The role of your stress in it all (which goes back to point 1 and the power of lowering your expectations).

– Why our children suffer when we put their needs above ours… 

 

3. Family of origin tensions or even full out fighting 

Do the added expectations and conflict with your family of origin seem like the icing on a cake you’d like to hurl at someone?

I used to feel SOOO mixed about trips home to see my family. 

On the one hand, I’d long to be home and to see my siblings and parents.  Also, I felt it was important for my kids to know them and where I came from. 

On the other hand, nothing could take me from calm, happy person to batshit crazy like being around my family of origin.  Can you relate?

 I also used to blame my then-husband for the kids’ feelings about going home to Saskatchewan.  He was open about disliking going, which I thought infected the kids. Now I see that all of them were reacting to the fact that I was so full of conflict about going!  I learned that after a number of good trips home with the kids.  Sam commented on how he always wondered when he was little why we went because I got so stressed out. 

What a wakeup call to realize that it was my stress that caused my kids to dislike visiting my family. 

I don’t have a magic wand to overcome family of origin issues overnight.  I will tell you below about some of the options we offer to help you get to the truly magical place of peace with your family.  Also, what I can tell you is that it’s very possible, and it’s a journey so critical to take. 

A simple fact? The more we can find peace with our family of origin, the more we can accept our own shortcomings, and therefore the better we can show up for our kids. 

Learning to forgive my mother in particular for the fact that her redlined stress levels made her do things like call me “Yackie Jackie”, was a game changer for me.  I was SOOO self-critical, and I found that as I forgave her, I started to soften towards myself. 

Does just knowing that things can change help some?  What I SOOO wish I’d known then, was that parenting was going to take me on a huge personal growth ride, that would end up with me finding myself great at dealing with conflict.  I had ZERO inkling that I’d get to a place where I cherished time with my family and very rarely got torqued up anymore, despite them not changing.

Want to support your kids in creating great memories of holidays and other times?

For many of us, the game changer was to get off the track of endlessly consuming parenting information, and actually get direct support, either one-on-one or in small groups.  That’s why GPS has built a team of coaches from all over the world to support you (Saudi Arabia to all over Europe and North America, as well as New Zealand).

Want to give your kids the best holidays going forward?  Schedule a free session with one of our coaches, and we’ll dive in to talk about where you might need help.  Often times there are things you can’t see because you are in the trenches.  It’s our honor to serve you by spending 45 minutes with you.  At the end, we can tell you about our one-on-one coaching, our transformational small group coaching program (coming February 2022!), our Parent-Coach-Training program, as well as other ways we can help you.  It’s a zero pressure, free session that is a chance for you to finally be heard and get some support, regardless of whether you want further help. 

“No mama, or papa, left behind” is one of our GPS mantras.  It’s a game changer to have support from people who have gone before, eg our coaching team, as well as from parents who are right where you are now.  I hope we get the honor of meeting you!

I’ll sign off with telling you that you are a hero or a shero (a female hero) for continuing to show up to parent your children despite how incredibly difficult it is right now.  Please take that to heart, so when you are feeling like a monster for losing it at your child in the midst of this season, you can give yourself the grace you so richly deserve.  Even heroes fall down.  It’s the getting up again that matters most, and it’s what our kids need to see. 

So much love to you! This can be the start of things getting so much easier.  Do not despair.  We’ve got you if you want support. 

Happy holidays!  

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