True Parent 6
Holidays can be complex for a plethora of reasons. You may have built up expectations in your head that would make Clark Griswold jealous. Or maybe you’re already stressed about your holiday budget or the emotional cost that could continue deep into 2016. It’s the time of year when we become acutely aware of recent losses, changes within our families, or painful past experiences. Or you may feel that none of these “holidays” are culturally or religiously your holidays—making your family feel like outsiders or simply overlooked. Here are a few tips for attempting to thrive (or at least survive) this holiday season, even if it doesn’t turn out to be the hap-hap-happiest holiday since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny Kaye:
1. Be intentional.
Think about what’s important to you and your family during the holidays—and plan out ways to prioritize those values. Talk with your family about what would make the holidays fun, relaxing, and meaningful this year. And make sure time those things are put on the schedule and prioritized.
2. Just say “NO.”
There will likely be more holiday parties, family gatherings, or neighborhood festivities than you can possibly cram into your schedule. Your kids may have asked Santa for a $500 toy they can’t live without, or flights back home for all five of you might add up to over $2K. See tip #1, and remember what’s really important. Then just say “no” to the unimportant stuff, so you can say “yes” to the things you’ve prioritized. Don’t give more financially, emotionally, or relationally than you can afford. Otherwise you’ll be hating life come January.
3. Be flexible and go with the flow.
Sorry, parents... but this holiday is not going to be that idealistic 1950s Judy Garland movie plot playing in your head. But for brief moments, it can be memorable, the start of new traditions, and even magical—followed by screaming and the sound of broken ornaments... that were heirlooms... from your mother-in-law. Our best laid plans often fall apart. If you have kids, be prepared for things not going perfectly—and maybe not going well at all. Don’t try to have a perfect holiday, the perfect photo, or the perfect family dinner. Simply put, it’s not going to happen, and you’ll just stress out yourself and the rest of your family in the process. Not perfect? That’s okay! The magic and the best memories often happen in those unexpected moments that didn’t go the way we planned.
Nate Bagley is a child and family counselor at Bridge City Counseling (bridgecitycounseling.com), where he serves as clinical director. He’s also a part-time stay-at-home dad to a preschooler and grade schooler.