By Christine Rushford
Tickets to the holiday show…check
Sparkly Christmas dresses to wear…check
Fancy dinner before the show…check
Epic meltdown in the lobby of the theatre where you miss the entire show…check!
During the holiday season it is very easy for parents to get swept up in the social pressures of providing “The BEST Christmas ever!” for their children. We all want our kids to have happy memories of the holidays. Unfortunately, this pressure to provide often results in the very opposite of the happy memories parents strive for. Oftentimes, the holiday memories look more like this: “Hurry, we’re going to be late!” “Just SMILE for the picture!” “Are you eating more cookies?!” “I forgot to move the Elf!” (this one is always said just as the parent lays their head on the pillow to finally get some sleep!) Parents and kids alike end up overscheduled, over sugared, broke and exhausted. I myself get an annual cold or flu every year during the holiday season.
This year, I want to challenge parents to be mindful of which activities to include in their holiday planning. Which activities actually speak to the values and traditions of your family and which have become burdensome and exhausting? Write a list of all of your typical holiday plans for the month of December. Include your partner and kids in the list writing. Then have everyone rank each of the activities by number. Number 1 would be their favorite activity and number 10 would be their least favorite (if you only have 10 activities that you do each year). Compare everyone’s lists to determine which activities to keep and which your family wouldn’t mind letting go of this year. You might be surprised by the results. You thought the kids LOVED going ice skating every year, but Johnny’s only memory of that activity is falling down, scraping his knee and being cold. Your spouse always buys the tickets to the Polar Express, but secretly dreads the whole event. This list ranking can lead to an open dialogue about what each family member wants and expects for the season. Also, if some of the family members balk at cutting an activity, remind them that this is a trial year to see how it goes without that activity-it can always be reinstated next year.
As always, I encourage parents to go back to their family’s values and beliefs. Is the purpose of the holiday season to give to others? Is that principle of giving central to the family? If so, choose the holiday activities that speak specifically to giving and cut out the others. Is the purpose of your holiday season to celebrate your religious faith? If so, spend your time in religious activities. Your time spent should center around your long-term mission for your family. Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of December, we can lose sight of that.
When you trim down the expenses, obligations and time crunches, you will find that you often end up with “The BEST Christmas ever!”
*For a top 10 list of easy, fun, family centered activities, go to my Facebook page: christine rushford LMHC@counselingfamilies.com