This year, when I went to look for Halloween candy I saw some Christmas decorations at the supermarket! And we all know that, when the season is here, we see images of happy, healthy, wealthy folks who seem to have it all together all the time. But anyone who is raising kids knows that the holidays can also be a stressful time for both parents and kids.
Some of the stress comes from those questions that many of us ask ourselves at this time of year: “How can I get it all done?” “I cannot afford everything my child wants for Christmas. How can I face her disappointment?” “I know I’m going to see that relative who always fights with me. How can I handle it better this year?” “That one special loved one who I miss the most won’t with us again this year. How can I handle my sadness when I’m supposed to be happy?”
Anyone at Astor can tell you that, for many families, the holidays offer some good times and some hard times every year. We know that feelings of sadness and nervousness can get worse for kids at this time of year and we know that, at any times of year, the kind of stress parents feel around the holidays can really be hard to manage on top of everything else. What can you do? Here are a few simple ideas:
Keep it simple! Do less and focus more on being together. The best gift you can give your child is time with you. Spend time making gifts for others, just being together with your kids, and spend time with family and friends who are comfortable and easy to be with. Go through your holiday list of “to-do’s” and activities. What can you take out to make time with your closest friends and family? These moments times can be spent making cookies, caring for an elderly neighbor, going for a walk, cooking together—anything that focuses on being with others, not getting or giving expensive objects. What tasks can you share with your kids to make them into time together and having fun?
Plan ahead. If your family is facing the holidays without a loved one for the first time, or facing a separation or divorce, make a plan about what holiday traditions you want to continue and what you do not. For example, if you always went to Grandma’s house but she is gone now, decide where the family will meet and share the cooking. Most importantly, plan a new tradition that allows your family to do something that does not feel so hard to face without that loved one. Honor the old traditions, but make some new ones as well!
Keep it real and keep your routine! There is no law that says that people should not feel differently during the holidays. People and families can have fun together, but they can also have fights, feel grumpy, and get tired. So keep it real. If someone is feeling badly, let them feel that way. If you are feeling down, give yourself a break. Don’t be so hard on yourself for feeling the stress that comes with this time of year. And keep your routines. Get everyone to bed at a good hour—including yourself. Make simple meals and put them on the table at the regular times.