One of my favorite books to read to my children this time of year is Llama Llama Holiday Drama. In it Llama and his mom rush around for days in a holiday-induced frenzy. They shop. They clean. They bake and decorate. Through it all Llama waits and waits and waits for the big day until, unable to contain his anticipation for another minute, he erupts in a full-throated fit of holiday drama.
As I look at the calendar and wonder how I’m going to find the time to create a December holiday for my family, I can relate to Llama’s meltdown. My survival strategy this year is to simplify, so I can focus on what really matters.
Here are some more holiday survival strategies.
Decide what’s most important and let go of the rest. Be honest with yourself about what you should reasonably handle. If you find yourself angrily staring down a sink full of dirty dishes at midnight, maybe it’s time to rethink the importance of holiday baking. Do you usually attend a holiday party that’s not that fun or a hassle to get to? Skip it. An overly ambitious agenda will only plunge your household into chaos and diminish your family’s enjoyment of the season.
Create and observe traditions with your family. Traditions offer children security, wonder and something to look forward to and remember forever. Don’t worry about making things perfect. Relaxed and joyous time spent with the people they love most are what your kids will relish. You could string popcorn for the tree, make holiday decorations, or assemble a holiday box of the children’s art and photos for the grandparents. Consider a special family outing: go ice-skating, take a walk or drive around your city to admire the holiday lights, or see a holiday show.
Plan ahead and let your kids know that to expect. The holidays upend routines, so start each day with a snuggle and preview of the day’s activities. Looking at a calendar can help children solidify plans in their minds. Point out the appropriate days and say, “On this day we’ll have dinner with the neighbors and on Christmas Eve we’ll drive to Grandma’s.” Children become bored with activities adults often find enjoyable—long dinners with friends, extended visits to houses without other children. If you’re doing a lot of socializing, be sure to bring plenty of activities to keep the kids occupied: books, crayons, paper, snacks, DVDs, and favorite toys.
Cut down on consumerism. Whatever holiday you celebrate, talk to your children about its importance and meaning to your family. Remind them that the value of a gift is not determined by how much money is spent on it. Spend an afternoon making gifts for friends and family. Turn off the TV to avoid commercials or stick to commercial-free media.
Take care of yourself. Your kids don't care if you have a perfectly decorated house or baked goods for the entire neighborhood. They care that you're present with them, ready to make merry and enjoy all the season has to offer. If you're exhausted and stressed out, you might miss the opportunity to connect with your kids and share in joyous traditions. Take time to recharge and rejuvenate. Go for a walk, take a hot bath, go to yoga, read a book or do whatever brings you pleasure.