Keep calm and carry on…planning for the holidays together

For many parents, the “most wonderful time of the year” is really not so wonderful.

In fact, it’s the time of year when we often feel overwhelmed and stressed out.  We know it and our kids sense it. We are pulled in so many different directions, often unsure where we’re headed next. The season’s extra demands seem to tax our overbooked schedule, and finding personal time seems next to impossible.  To top it off, many of us are spending faster than we can save. It can certainly be a huge challenge to balance everything during the holidays.

a young woman tangled up in christmas lights with a puzzled look on her face

Mix it together and “poof” = STRESS!!

So can it be different? Does it have to feel this way?

No, it doesn’t.

Let’s re-frame our thinking

Imagine planning for your holidays with a mindset that’s calm, purposeful and meaningful.  Your decisions are made with clarity and ease, and not rushed and reactive.  Sound impossible? It isn’t. You CAN do it, really!  But, it will take some work and reflection from everyone in the family, starting with yourself.

So before the hustle and bustle ramps up, stop and think about what matters to you.

Then start the family conversation and plan for the most meaningful things.

Quick tips to get you going

  • Plan ahead (ok… no-brainer, right).
  • Have a family meeting and share your expectations and hopes for the holidays.
  • Honour commitments already made, record them in a spot everyone can see.
  • Set aside enough time to make your plans relaxing and rewarding.
  • Reserve some “chill out” nights for the family (you deserve it)!

Conversation starters for your family

  • What are your hopes for the holidays?Family and friends sitting at a dining table
  • What are your favourite traditions?
  • Are you planning to exchange gifts this year with friends/family? What are the top 3 list gifts on your list?
  • Do you want to share a memory with someone special this holiday?
  • Can I count on you to help with ‘XYZ’ over the holidays (e.g., baking, wrapping, decorating)
  • What are the things you least like doing over the holidays?
  • If we were to give back or volunteer as a family, where would it be?

Listen to what each family member has to say to get a clear picture of what they value. Then plan together.  This takes the pressure off of you and empowers everyone to be accountable.  As the season unfolds, nobody is surprised or disappointed with the choices made.

Consider the things you CAN control and how you will manage them

  • Finances: Budget for gifts, food, travel, decorations.
  • Expectations for gift giving: To whom? Homemade vs. store-bought?
  • Family commitments: Personal/work events, extracurricular events.
  • Extended travel: Who will you see? Is it a family event? When?

Other ideas

  • Create a shared family calendarClose-up of a monthly planner
  • Say “No” to events that don’t hold meaning for you or your family
  • Attend no more than one event in a day
  • Have regular family check-ins
  • Reduce travel obligations
  • Schedule in more relaxation
  • Be active everyday
  • Cook some quick and healthy meals ahead of time
  • Stick to regular bedtimes
  • Stay true to your budget

Purposeful planning will make a big difference in managing family expectations.  It gives each family member the chance to share their feelings and ideas and cushions any bumps along the way.  Plus, you will have more time to embrace the magic of the season! Now go update the family calendar and plan for wonderful month ahead. You will be surprised just how good it feels.

 Let us know how it feels for you!

For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000

About Carolyn Wilkie, RN

For most of my nursing years I have been out in the community supporting new parents on their fabulous and sometimes crazy journey into parenthood! I love working as part of the HaltonParents team. I have 2 sweet boys, who continue to amaze and surprise me everyday. So glad we could connect.
This entry was posted in Grandparents, Mental Health, Parenting, School-aged Children, stress and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Keep calm and carry on…planning for the holidays together

  1. Janet Siverns says:

    Great post, Carolyn. My son, who is the father of two young children and is currently back in school (meaning, vastly reduced family income) proposed this year that we limit gifts between family members to $30 or less apiece. This has been really freeing – it’s not about bigger and better, but manageable. We have beenforced to be creative about what to get, including coupons for gifts of time such as babysitting or a meal at our house. We also are trying to “practise gratitude” for each day in December – at some point, pause and consider or share with someone else one thing we are truly thankful for.

  2. Carolyn Wilkie, RN says:

    Hi Janet,
    I love the idea of “family coupons” and really digging into what feels best for the family, so nice when a family is comfortable enough to discuss “limits” in spending and what works. We are grateful you shared with us today (check) 🙂 ~Carolyn,RN

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