I love this time of year- the music, the sense of family, and the building of memories. I also see a lot of tension in families as they try to find the get all of the presents bought and wrapped in time, create and build on past family traditions, and manage the zillion details that come up. What can we do to feel joy in the season, and not be overwhelmed by all the stuff that needs to be done?
I think it’s really important to have realistic expectations of yourself and your family. It’s nice to picture everyone gathered together, smiles on all faces, but overtired kids (and adults!) is normal, so is the less than perfect behavior can come along with overstimulation. Do what you can to take the pressure off of yourself and your family, by realizing that it’s just fine to be imperfect! Even better, think about what leads to those stressful situations, and do what you can to eliminate them – eg, make sure the kids eat on their schedule – don’t make them wait for the adult meal, everyone can rest in the afternoon if you know it will be a late night.
Practically speaking, don’t wait until the last minute to take care of all the details you need to tend to. That is a recipe for major stress! Take care of as many things as you can ahead of time. Making a detailed list can be very helpful; a simple checklist can work just as well. Do not wait until the last minute to do your shopping – you will be battling the crowds of people who also all waited until the last minute, have longer lines, more tension and pressure, and generally just lose the joy of what it is you are doing. Ideally, the best time to buy gifts is months in advance – I like to buy things that I think my family will enjoy and stockpile them throughout the year. I do the vast majority of my shopping off season, when the stores are empty, the prices are low, and I am feeling relaxed about what I’m doing. (Thegift of doing things in advance is that it is accompanied by a sense of inner peace.)
Lots of the food preparation can also be done ahead of time. Right around Thanksgiving is the best time to buy baking ingredients at sale prices. Bake with your kids, and pop it all into the freezer – you will enjoy not only getting the things done that you want to get done, but have the double bonus of spending fun time with your kids.
Don’t forget, this time of year is called the holiday season for a reason. It’s not about one week or even one day – make the entire month a process leading up to the holiday itself, by sharing holiday books and stories, baking, and special activities.