Thursday, November 29, 2012

8 Tips for Holiday Sanity

This article came out of trying to be in too many places during Christmas with 3 little kids in tow. Now we spread it all out, say no to some things, and it is a much more enjoyable and less stressful season (especially now that we have 5 kids)!

Ah, childhood! Remember when you didn’t have to worry about being in three places at once during the holidays? The dilemma of where to go seemed to be so easily worked out by our parents and extended family. Now that we are grown-ups, by the time the new year rolls around most of us seem to end up totally frazzled from celebrating the holidays several times with many sets of relatives. Adding your own kids to the mix can make situations even more crazy, leaving them – and you – feeling like the rope in a game of Human Tug-of-War. Below are some quick fixes that will help you and your family be full of holiday cheer this year.

1. Combine family events. Instead of running to your parents’ house and then to see each of your siblings separately, consider having just one shin-dig at one location when most everyone can attend. To make life even easier, forego the sit-down dinner and choose to go the potluck route. Some people choose to throw a small party at their house every year on the second Friday in December, for example, and have things for the kids to do, like building a gingerbread house or painting ornaments.

2. Consider an Open House. Choose a location (like your uncle’s house), a date and a convenient time frame when family members can come and go as they please without the pressure of being on time for a meal. Serve finger foods and other easy fare to make it easy on the hostess.

3. Attend the far-away celebrations only every other year. It’s a fact of life that people marry someone from another state or move out of town due to a job change or other circumstance. This can leave many families feeling pulled in too many directions when the holidays roll around. It can be difficult to decide how to come together, so work out the details in advance.

4. Negotiate annually. All families are different so it can be practically impossible to please everybody every year. One year your cousin may need to leave early to spend the rest of the day with her husband’s family. Another year it may just work out best to hold the event on a completely different day of the month. Which brings me to …

5. Help your extended family realize that, for example, Christmas can be even nicer when spent on a day other than December 25th. You could get together with your grandparents a couple of weeks before or after Christmas Day for a much more relaxed mood. You would get to take your time opening gifts while enjoying each other’s company. What a time to treasure and look forward to every year!

6. Do drop in. Elaine St. James, author of Simplify Your Christmas: 100 Ways to Reduce the Stress and Recapture the Joy of the Holidays, only visits her sister and her family to raise a toast but not to eat. She takes no food for the meal, no gifts, and says to her family, “We’re bringing ourselves and our best wishes for the season.”

7. Just stay home. Some make the choice to celebrate Christmas Day at their own home every year. The decision may not popular, and you might have to defend it every year, but it could be the most relaxing and fun day of your entire year. Just imagine yourself hanging out in comfy sweatpants all day long while you play with your kids and their new toys, games and other gifts.

8. If tensions get high between family members, think of others who may not have any family, or even a home. Consider serving food at a homeless shelter sometime around the holiday or being a bell-ringer for The Salvation Army for a couple of hours. Elaine St. James has another great idea: Make a paper bag lunch with a sandwich, cookies, fruit and juice drink and pass it out to the homeless in your area. These are great opportunities to take your kids along and teach them the true meaning of the holidays.

To ensure no feelings are hurt, make sure your family knows they are always welcome to spend holidays at your home (with some notice, of course!). With a little understanding and communication, everyone in your family can have a peaceful holiday season.

Kerrie McLoughlin is just a regular mom who writes about parenting 5 kids at and for over 100 regional parenting magazines and shares her expertise in her ebook Make Money to Write About Your Kids.
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