Five Tips to Making this Holiday Great Despite the Ongoing Challenges

Do you have mixed feelings when you think of the holidays this year?

Unfortunately, the holidays can be such a stressful time for moms! Yet so much of what causes us stress, isn’t what makes the holidays special anyway. That’s why I am sharing five tips to making this holiday your best one ever despite what may be going on in our world right now.

The great news? Not one of these tips involves you having to do anything you don’t like doing! You don’t have to become crafty, bake up a storm if that isn’t you, or become something you aren’t, which is super mom! It’s about making the most of who you are, and the unique and beautiful gift that is your family.

During our last coaches’ meeting the coaches shared some of their stories about letting go during the holiday season.

Michelle Brussel from New York, one of our GPS coaches, shared a Hanukkah story with us. Her son wanted to make latkes, which they’ve traditionally done in the past during Hanukah. It’s amazing how kids latch on to traditions, even if only done a handful of times. They crave that sense of attachment and roots. She wasn’t too motivated to make them, and was hoping to get in some much needed self-care during that time, instead. He really wanted those latkes, though! Eventually, he came up with a solution to buy latkes, and it worked out well for everyone. I love this story, because it didn’t involve Michelle dropping her self-care and it encrouaged her son to take some initiative and find a solution! So many times we feel an obligation to provide the perfect holidays for our kids, but taking care of ourselves so we can show up as the parents we want to be can be the greatest gift. And if there is a tradition the kids really want to continue, even when you’re not up for it, there’s nothing wrong with them making it happen in a different way!

Another one of our coaches, Joanna from California, has daughters who really wanted a full Thanksgiving dinner this year, when it was only going to be the 5 of them at the table. She didn’t want to spend her whole day cooking. They really wanted this dinner with all the traditional sides. So, she let them take charge. Her 10 and 7 year olds came up with a menu, made a shopping list, then when it came to cooking, they each took on a side, as did her teenage son. It ended up being a family effort that they took initiative to make happen. And Joanna didn’t have to plan or cook all day. 

These are some examples of what the 5 tips can do for you.

So, here it goes! 

1. Lower your expectations (DRAMATICALLY if need be)!

If you start off with lower expectations, then so much becomes a bonus. If you are able to do more than the bare bones essentials, great! You can feel like super mom for pulling off more. But if you aren’t able to do more than you expected, you’ll still feel like you’ve nailed your goal, instead of beating yourself up.

To learn more check out my blog post on The Powerful Perspective https://greatparentingshow.com/powerful-perspective-shift/

You may want to go for the lowest expectations you’ve ever had for the holidays! When you pare down to what is essential, many surprising gifts emerge.

Which is better? The perfect Christmas you envisioned, with high tension and stress OR you having a simpler Christmas with your children feeling the love that comes through 10 times more when you are able to have a much more relaxed and even playful attitude?  With the stress of things in the world now it also helps to lower the expectations so that you have less pressure on you and your kids to have anything go a certain way.  Things are so out of sorts that it can almost be a little easier to lower expectations and just do your best to enjoy the time and what you ARE able to do!

I’ll talk more later about how you contribute to raising anxious, perfectionistic kids by having too high expectations! Everyone suffers, including your kids. Is it worth it for anyone when you buy into the idea that the holidays need to be done a certain way or else?

2. Enlist help!

There are many advantages of stress. (Check out a blog post I did that highlights Kelly McGonigle’s excellent book called The Upside of Stress.) Yes, you heard me correctly! The stress that the holidays provide can push you to quit trying to do it all yourself.  

That’s huge!

One of the many reasons why parenting is so hard is we are trying to do insane things.

Children require a lot of support. We get that. But where did we get the crazy idea that we must provide all of that support?

Things are very different this year with the social distancing restrictions, but perhaps you still have an older child in the neighborhood or a babysitter that can come over to play with your child in the yard at a safe distance, and give you some space.  Or maybe there’s a senior in your life who would be willing to do have a video call with your child. There are ways to get creative even during the pandemic.

Often we think we have to be there for every special moment. Yet, by the time our kids leave the house, they need to function 100% on their own. One of the things that will ensure their flight from the nest is not only a safe one, but one where they thrive, is to build their village. That happens now, by getting more people involved in their lives.  It can be more challenging to do that but still worth the effort!  Maybe some of the interactions are over zoom or the phone where your child can connect with distant relatives or talk with friends.

3. Ask your kids what one thing is that really matters to them.

You may be surprised by their answers! If you are cutting back on expectations, you’ll want to be sure that you don’t cut out their favorite thing without knowing it.

It is possible, even if not very likely, that you will decide not to do their favorite thing. It may be that the cost in terms of time, money, and energy isn’t worth it for the family overall. If so, don’t forget that kids need limits, and that they can adjust to so much of what the world throws at them, if they have a loving, empathetic ear to help them through the tough adjustment.  I think what our kids really want right now is a safe place to express there emotions.  As I a sure like many of the adults have strong emotions about what is going on in the world right now.

4. Don’t drop your self care

The holidays are much more of a marathon than a sprint. Back when I was a long-distance runner I learned in a hurry that you can’t get through a four hour run without self-care. If you don’t do things like hydrate and eat properly (if you can call swallowing gels, eating!) you won’t make it.

When you talk about the holidays, it’s not quite that dramatic in the short-term. But in the long-term, the costs can add up surprisingly.

For example often we lower our self care, and end up turning to things like food and alcohol in order to self-sooth during the holidays. But the long-term costs can be huge. Say you gain 5-10 lbs each holiday season.  Many people don’t lose that weight. So over the course of a decade, you can end up 50 to 100 lbs heavier because of sacrificing over the holidays. Fact is, after gaining a certain amount, most people give up and their health gets worse as they quit exercising or watching what they eat like they used to.  It is more important than ever that we take good care of our bodies so that we can fight off any viruses that come our way.

What could it cost you to let your self-care go over the holidays?

What could it cost your kids?

Your kids are watching you! They are watching how you deal with stress. When they see you scaling back expectations, allowing for more joy and relaxation, while still doing your self-care, they are learning how to do the holidays well!

They are learning how to do LIFE well, with all of its challenging times.

That’s a way better gift to give them don’t you think than trying to give them some version of a perfect Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate?

5. Nurture or start a few simple traditions

This point had to be last for many reasons! I don’t want you to add more to your plate, so I wanted to get you thinking of how to scale back first.

So am I contradicting myself when I recommend you START something new?

One of the things that makes family so special, and that helps us to stay connected with our kids throughout life, including when they are struggling as teens or later in life, is our family traditions. It is important to know that how YOU do things, is perfect.

This can be with just your family, or can be with someone special to you and your children’s lives.

It is not critical that this tradition stays the same. For example in my family, making gingerbread houses is one of those things we always have done. For the first few years “aunty” Maureen came out to visit and join in the fun. Then the children’s unofficial godmother, Danielle, started being the one we decorated with. Some years we’ve done the houses on our own. Last year we did them at my mother’s, using kits and with my sister, my nephew and my other nephew’s girlfriend, participating.

Yet through it all, we have a recipe and a set of patterns for our traditional house. It’s fine that we’ve done something different sometimes, but we keep coming back to that original pattern, brought to us from a magazine by Maureen, 15+ years ago.  Also I think it can be okay to not do a tradition this year that can’t be done or isn’t offered letting your kids know that you WILL come back to it next year when it is available.  In the meantime maybe you look back at pictures when you where able to go to that Christmas program you always go to.

These traditions help answer the question, what does it mean to be a (insert your family’s name here.) It’s way more effective to have a few simple traditions that you follow more often than not, than it is to try to “do it all” over the holidays. The latter burns everyone out, and leads to ungrateful kids because they haven’t got enough of the good stuff, such as the down time to enjoy being with the family and to charge up for the time ahead.

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