Well, the holiday season is here. I wasn't really ready for it, but it started anyway! I love the holidays, but I also realize that this is one of the most stressful times of the year. Financial issues, family issues, the approach of winter and the lack of day light...all contribute to increased stress levels that can take the cheer out of the season.
While there is no simple remedy for combating the stress the holidays bring, there are some things that you can try that may help. First, and I think perhaps most important, is to step back and take a look at your expectations for the holidays. Many of us harbor a Norman Rockwell image of what the perfect holiday dinner looks like. What we need to understand is that this image is a fantasy. Even Mr. Rockwell himself did not experience what he painted. Families are families, and life is life. There will be squabbles and the turkey may well be dry. Expect it, and be prepared to go with the flow. Remember that this years' "disaster" will bring years of "do you remember when" laughter.
As parents we have expectations for our children around the holidays that they may not be aware of. If the table manners that suffice at home are not going to pass muster at Grandma's holiday table, then talk to them in advance about how you want them to behave. Also keep in mind that as parents we may find ourselves over reacting to normal child behaviors because we feel like our family is watching us and judging our parenting. Try to stay relaxed and remember no parent or child is perfect!
Finances bring a lot of stress to the season. Many of us have an idea of what we want to spend, and then end up exceeding that by leaps and bounds. Figuring out what your budget needs to be, and then tracking your spending may be tedious, but in the end will leave you in a better state of mind that if you enter January dreading the arrival of the bills.
Even our younger children can understand the concept that different families have different budgets. Involving your children in activities that help families with less than they have can help
them develop a grateful perspective. For example, helping collect basic items for families that lost everything in storm Sandy can make the fact that an i phone is out of reach even though some friends are getting them, easier to accept. While kids do look forward to the big ticket stuff, they can be thrilled by the little stuff as well. In families with multiple children, gifts of one on one time with Mom or Dad can be very exciting. Passes allowing them to stay up an extra half hour or so, or to watch a favorite movie are free and full of potential fun. Be creative and come up with things that work for your family!
I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Relax, breath deeply, and focus on what you are thankful for. Let the little stuff go! Our community has experienced some unexpected and devastating losses this year. Families are grieving loved ones they lost. That isn't little stuff. I hope you have loved and valued people to spend time with this Thanksgiving. They are the "big stuff". May you appreciate and enjoy your time with them!