First and foremost, remember to rest. The holiday season can be a whirlwind of activities that can leave individuals and families overwhelmed and children over stimulated. Often times the holidays can mean hectic schedules. Be mindful of the need for rest and good nutrition, especially for children. Children are especially vulnerable when they are tired and over stimulated. Find ways to include predictable routines, rest and good nutrition. Find ways to practice good self care during this time. Grab lunch with a friend, exercise and use good stress management to cope with the extra stress that this season can bring. Stressed out parents can often trickle down to irritable, fussy children, so it’s important to take care of yourself during this time.
Examine your own expectations. Remembering what this season is all about and avoid falling victim to unrealistic expectations or commercialized versions of the holiday season is important. Keeping our own expectations in check will allow us to better manage stress and allow us to invest our time and energy into what’s really important. We can use this time to teach important lessons to our children about giving back, about what this season really means, and how we can celebrate this joyful time and focus on spiritual lessons that will last a lifetime.
Engage the whole family in planning for the Holidays. Decide early on what are realistic expectations for family schedules; activities and budgets for gifts and food. Involve the family in decorating and deciding on meaningful gifts for family and friends. Allowing children to help with holiday baking or making gifts for family and friends increases their self esteem and gives them the opportunity to build lasting memories.
Communicate needs and expectations. Stress and frustration can occur when there is a breakdown in communicating expectations during the holiday season. Make sure you and your spouse are on the same page when it comes to schedules, responsibilities and communicate behavioral expectations to children. This can prevent undue stress and anxiety.
Be intentional about little moments during this season to connect with your children and family, Do what they enjoy, this might mean playing candy land, coloring or making a craft, reading the Christmas story, making Christmas cookies, spending one on one time with your spouse. Remember that these are the moments they will remember most, not the perfect tree or the perfect dinner table, but the small moments of connections. These are the moments where memories are made.
As you head into the busy holiday season, it is our hope that you will find little moments to find rest and connection. That you will let go of commercialized expectations and invest in what you find important, and you will take a step back and remember the reason for the season. Take time to talk with your children about the true miracle of Christmas and the hope that it brings to us every day, not just at Christmas.
Wishing you lots of moments that turn into amazing memories.
Ashley Trotter, LPCA
Reclaim Counseling and Wellness