3 Ways to Reduce Your Holiday Stress

"I have a love/hate relationship with the holidays!"

This quote is a comment many parents can relate to. It's so much fun to see

the excitement in a child's eyes as holiday decorations begin to appear and we gather with friends and family for wonderful celebrations. That is the "love" part of the holidays. Then there is the reality of all the work that makes those special moments happen. If you haven't already, I'm sure you'll soon be making lists. From gifts to buy to recipes to try, the grand "to-do" list grows daily. There's also the feeling of having to meet expectations. For some, it's the obligation of attending parties and gatherings. For others, it's required visits to relatives near and far. You may even be dreading the conversations about gift-giving boundaries. (Trying to gently tell grandparents that your child does not need half the toy store makes you sound like the Grinch!) Today I want to encourage you to take a deep breath and give yourself permission to let go of some things. Right now, you might be saying, "Oh right! You have NO idea how badly that would go around here." I get it. I really do. But, if you are already dreading the holidays, wouldn't it make sense to make even some small changes so you can stop the feeling of dread and enjoy the upcoming weeks instead?! Ask yourself, would you really rather spend the next few weeks missing out on the real joy of this season because you're stressing about someone else's expectations? Here are a few holiday strategies for you: 1. Set limits on gifts There is absolutely no reason to build up a boatload of debt that you'll regret next month! This may bring momentary joy to your kiddos, but think of the additional stress the financial burden will cause at the beginning of a new year. Some folks recommend four items: Something to read, something to wear, something they want and something they need. Anything else is bonus. If you're dealing with extended family who wants to "spoil" the kids, ask them to do experience gifts instead of more clutter in your home. A few ideas include: a local zoo or science museum membership, day passes to adventure parks or a rock climbing center, escape room or movie tickets for teens. Remember, for some people gift-giving is their love language. It's how they show they care. Be gentle with them and guide them to things "I know my child will really like" instead of items they may not use. 2. Set limits on visiting Of course, family gatherings are a huge part of the holiday season, but you need to know it's okay to set some boundaries. If you've got little ones who need naps and bedtime routines, it's perfectly fine to work around those. After all, who wants to deal with toddler meltdowns at a family dinner?! Company coming to your home? Have a discussion with them about how long they'll be staying and what the expectations are. Do they want you cooking every meal? (If so, suggest shared cooking nights instead!) Will they be in your space the entire time or out visiting other relatives or sightseeing? It's just helpful to know ahead of time what everyone is envisioning for the time together. Parents of teens, don't forget your kids will want to spend time with their friends as well. It is their winter break from school and they may want to do some activities outside of the required family gatherings. Work with your teen to find a happy balance, you'll discover they're more willing to attend family gatherings if they also know they'll time for their chosen social activities as well. 3. Create some downtime for everyone The holidays can feel overwhelming. It's perfectly okay to plan a quiet night with the kids watching a favorite movie or playing a board game. Kids may want to just relax during their break from school and you need some time to unwind as well! This gift of unscheduled time will give everyone a chance to recharge their battery after some very busy days. Bonus Tip: "No" is okay to use! Whether it's another cookie exchange in your neighborhood or a long-distance drive to see relatives you don't even talk to the rest of the year, "No, that won't work for us this year" is something you need to practice saying. You have to protect yourself and your sanity! If you just can't bake another dozen cookies or you'll lose your mind, then decline gracefully and enjoy the time at home! Do you really need the extra stress? I don't think so! The holidays are meant to be enjoyed, not dreaded. So sit down with your partner and decide what things need to happen, what is negotiable, and which are absolutely "not this year." When the two of you are on the same page, it enables you to set your family up for a successful next few weeks! For weekly tips and strategies, sign up at https://my.daretoparent.com/tips You'll also receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-book "Rules that Matter...5 Tips for Better Cooperation" filled with techniques to improve communication and win your child's cooperation!

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