Tips for a Calm Holiday Season
I have always felt that the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas can be some of the most exciting, exhausting, frustrating, cozy times of the year. The problem comes when our nutrition, expectations and obligations aren't aligned with our best interests. Do you feel responsible for making sure that everyone has an amazing holiday? Do you feel that you have to attend every event or party for fear of letting the hosts down? Do you worry that your kids will melt down or be let down by the holiday season itself? And, do you want to sample at least three of every new cookie on the Food Network regardless of the sugar content? By setting some realistic and honest guidelines for yourself today, you can enjoy the upcoming weeks instead of stressing!
As a parent myself, I am reminded to share that we can only control the circumstances in our own homes. This is the place where we can create calm as well as great memories! Some of my greatest Christmas memories have been the simple moments. An afternoon putting together gingerbread houses. Singing Christmas carols with kids while folding laundry. None of the "great memories" occurred during big affairs. Grandparents may overload your children with sweet treats when you go to visit, schools may feed into the hype by helping children create their Santa Christmas list and the tv commercials will most definitely do their job of trying to get you into their stores. So, set yourself up for a pleasant holiday by trying some of these tactics:
Begin with your personal space. Keep your house a safe haven. A quiet spot with the same routines. Limit tv viewing and screen time for kids as well as adults can be beneficial at this time of the year. Choose programs that are in alignment with your thoughts and beliefs about the holiday season and remember that commercials are rampant and designed to influence the young. Choose screen time carefully!
Make some nutritional promises to and for yourself and your family. Begin every, single day with a large glass of water. Kids included! It's a great habit to start. Sounds simple, right? Americans tend to walk around dehydrated a lot of the time and this can lead to over-eating and feelings of sluggishness! A simple glass of water before breakfast, juice or coffee can change the trajectory of your day. If you are feeling ambitious, squeeze half of a fresh lemon or lime in it! Not only are they refreshing fruits that can help us come alive in the morning but they help the liver do it's job of detoxifying the body~ which we all can use, especially during the holidays!
Look seriously at the sweet treats you are bringing into your house. If you have the time and desire, make some of them at home. This can be a great time to make some memories if baking feels like fun and not stress. Host a homemade cookie swap! Anytime we create in our own kitchens, we are more likely to start with some real ingredients instead of processed foods. By doing your best to steer clear of at least some of the processed foods, you are on the right track.
Up the colors on your table with each meal. We all consume more than enough treats during the holidays. Don't make any loud pronouncements here. Simply chop an apple on top of the kids yogurt in the morning. Or, switch the fries out for some sweet potato fries. Add some carrot sticks beside their PB&J instead of chips. The more colors we eat, the more vitamins and nutrients we are getting and the healthier we can stay! Color can help to balance out the sweets....at least a little!
Keep bedtimes the same. Kids work best with routines and sleep! There are very few little ones (big ones as well) that function optimally with less than their needed 8 hours. Kids usually need even more! Meltdowns do occur but the frequency goes down when the sleep time goes up. Keep bedtime and naptimes the same~ even if it means leaving parties early or skipping afternoon activities in favor of naps. It would't be a bad idea if parents closed their eyes for a short few minutes while the kiddos do. Even a quick 20 minute nap can help you feel refreshed and re-invigorated!
Limit the number of invitations that you actually accept. If your neighbors yearly bash is something that you never miss, put in on the calendar now but keep the rest of the week-end semi-clear so you aren't completely exhausted come Monday morning. Keep the big picture in mind as you are scheduling. If it feels like an obligation, take a long, look at it. What is your real motivation for attending? Who will truly care if you aren't there? Attend the parties and events that truly bring you joy! Skip those that feel like obligations.
If you host the family meal for the season, speak out now. Loudly! Assign everyone a dish, drinks, dessert or paper products to bring so that some of the responsibility is shared. You can even offer recipes to those who aren't so proficient in the kitchen. Switch to paper instead of glass and enjoy conversation after dinner instead of dishwashing. They do make environmentally-friendly paper products! On this same day, set aside one room of the house for kids. Small tables, pillows on the floor and tons a coloring books and board games. It keeps the chaos in one space and when kids feel they have their own space, they might be more likely to form some new alliances and explore relationships with cousins and siblings in a different way.
Set a budget for shopping. No one needs more Christmas socks or glass figurines for the tree. Shop for the people who mean the most to you but skip the gift-giving that feels obligatory. You can even have a short discussion around Thanksgiving time to give others a heads up. It could sound something like this...."We have decided to only shop for immediate family this year but we would love to get together for a homemade cookie swap." You may find that they are relieved to have less shopping to do as well! Or, you might want to put all of the names in a hat and do a secret Santa. This could greatly alleviate extended family shopping! And, don't apologize. Just be matter of fact. While you are making changes to your gift giving, consider experiences instead of things. This has been a major change for us. As the parents of six, we always tried to budget for Christmas but inevitably, some gifts were not as appreciated as others. What we have found is that as the kids have gotten older, they really like getting concert tickets, amusement park passes, ski lift tickets, etc. Obviously, this works better as they get older but even relatives may appreciate a dinner for two certificate or two movie tickets compared to fuzzy sweaters or beer making kits. Experiences over things is a great way to promote making family memories!
This tip feels like the biggest stretch for most parents. Take some time each week for yourself. Believe me when I say, I get it. I know how busy and stressful the holidays can be especially when jobs and kids and family is involved. However, you can only be your best self when you treat yourself as your number one priority. Don't skimp on this step. Right now, look at your calendar and carve an hour or two each week for yourself. Maybe it's a quiet dinner with your spouse at a nearby restaurant. Meet a friend for a cup of coffee and share your family dinner meal plans and how you chose to delegate this year. Maybe you hire the babysitter for an hour and go to the library so you can sit and read in peace. You can't fill anyone else's cup if your cup is empty! If money is an issue, swap babysitting time with another parent. An hour of alone time for an hour of alone time. This hour can sustain you for a week. Schedule it. On your actual calendar. Today!
Last, your spiritual beliefs are your own and there is no better time to share them than the holiday season! Whether you discuss the birth of Christ with your children and visit a live nativity or you work a soup kitchen with your kids on Thanksgiving Day, the important thing is that you and your family find a way to experience this holiday season on a level that goes beyond big, turkey dinners and presents underneath a sparkly tree. Kids are capable of understanding so much more than they are given credit for. Compassion comes naturally to most kids and when given the opportunity, they will express that along with joy and hope and faith throughout the season. Love knows no bounds!
No matter how you choose to spend the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I hope they are pleasant, calm and all that you hope them to be. Remember, though, that high expectations can be difficult to meet. Lower the bar, expect the melt downs and have a back-up plan. Don't put too much on the calendar and do your best to savor each moment.
Happy Holiday Season~