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6 Tips for Less Holiday Stress

It’s that time of year when we are supposed to be preparing for “perfect” holiday gatherings.

You know what I'm referring to...perfectly cooked dinners, beautifully decorated cookies, well-behaved kids, and all the relatives happily gathering together. To me, this brings so much pressure that we just don't need! Building Memories? I remember when our kids were little and we'd stuff our tiny Civic with car seats, diaper bags, toys, and luggage to get back home to family. Do you know what else I remember?

  • Trying to keep a baby and toddler happy while they were stuck in car seats for 6 hours (this was well before portable DVD players existed!)

  • Living out of suitcases

  • Toddlers without naps (not fun!)

  • Lost sleep because the kids couldn't settle in

  • Wanting to truly enjoy the holiday but feeling stressed and exhausted

Can you relate?

Let's Get Real

Despite the gorgeous Pinterest pins and the ever-perfect Hallmark Christmas movies, there is a reality they don't show. You know it as well as I do:

  • The stress of all that shopping and wrapping

  • Meals that take hours to cook

  • Relatives that you want to love but they just make it so difficult

  • Cranky kids who are tired and throw a full-blown tantrum "just because"

  • In-laws that try your every ounce of patience

  • Expectations of others on your time, energy, or finances

What's the Goal?

I remember one Christmas Eve at my parents' home, it was 2 am and I was rocking our 4-month-old in the same rocker my mom had used rocked me. Our little guy was really sick with croup and the poor thing was exhausted.

I will never forget my dad joining me in the living room, keeping me company as I cried. I was scared because the baby was sick, but I was also overwhelmed because I was trying to make sure Christmas was "perfect." Dad, in all his wisdom, reminded me that "perfect" wasn't the goal. Being together as a family was. Even more importantly, he said if it was just too much dragging the kids back and forth then I had to decide what was best for my little segment of our big family. Talk about feeling relieved!! That day Dad gave me something that I'm now going to give to you...PERMISSION.

Change Things Up

I strongly recommend self-care and downtime for family fun in a relaxed, easy manner. Just as my dad did for me years ago, I'm giving you permission to set some boundaries that will help you enjoy your holiday seasson. You may be thinking, "But I can't change things! I have family members that will be mad." To that I ask, "Is the stress really worth it?" Instead of shooting for that Pinterest-perect holiday I say...

  • It’s okay to postpone a visit until later in the day so your child can nap. You’ll be thankful for a well-rested, well-behaved child and enjoy the visit more.

  • Your meal or cookies don't have to look like the front of a magazine cover. Cook with love, that's all that matters!

  • Allow your kids of all ages to have a break from visiting with family, sometimes too much time together can be overwhelming.

  • It’s okay to set parameters on how long visitors will stay with you or you will stay at someone else’s home. It’s wonderful for a short time, keep it that way!

  • It's not about the stuff! If you're dreading an overload of presents hitting your home, ask relatives to give experienced-based gifts instead. Some ideas include: a zoo pass, tickets to a theater production, subscription-based activity boxes, a pass to a local museum, or a trip to a favorite ice cream store. These experiences will give your family something to do together and help build memories.

  • Allow for spontaneous fun! My kids still talk about the Christmas Eve at my parents’ home when we woke up to an unexpected lake effect snowstorm. What a perfect way for them to burn off some energy! Instead of a light snowfall, we woke to 3 feet of snow and the kids were so excited! We dressed them in Nana’s and Grandpa’s boots and winter coats and set them loose to go dig through the snowbanks. Being from Columbus, the kids hadn’t seen snow as deep as Lake Michigan can create outside of Chicago. Allowing them that playtime was the “best thing ever!”

BONUS TIP: Allow some things to not get done!

It’s okay if you didn’t get Christmas cards written. It's fine if your presents aren't wrapped perfectly...use gift bags, it's so much easier!

You are only one person and you’re a parent, sometimes you need to let some things go. (Yep, another hard-learned lesson from an experienced mom!) And so, for the next few weeks remember the reason we gather with family and friends is to build memories which we’ll pass from generation to generation.

Instead of getting caught up in the “shoulds”, just accept what is and enjoy your time together.

Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels

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