“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart. Wishing you happiness.” - Helen Keller
T’was the night before Christmas and all through the house, mothers were stirring -- pots, turkeys, gifts, trees, carols, cookies, shopping and all the rest of the fa la la merry go round! While visions of a perfectly decorated home, gourmet delights, and well-behaved kids begin to dance in my head, the reality is: my house looks more like a tornado went through it, my cookies have burned, and my children are out of control and on a total sugar high!
Enough with the holiday stress! Who says just because we are amazing moms who love to create special moments that we have to double as Santa Claus and a whole team of hard-working elves to have a happy holiday with our families?
It’s time to take a step back and reconnect to what makes the season truly meaningful. Design your holidays so they focus on celebration not expectation.
1. Create a budget and have some fun.
Holiday gift giving is a wonderful opportunity to teach your children about budgeting and how to handle money. A good way to go about it is to create your family budget for a specific number of gifts. Gifts should have a price ceiling. Include your children in the gift budget discussions. Children are naturally innovative and creative. Let them express this in gift giving.
2. Spend quality time with your holiday calendar.
The temptation is to always say “yes.” “Yes, we’ll come to your party.” “Sure, I’d love to host the family potluck.” But packing every moment with responsibilities is a recipe for burnout. Decide how much time you want to spend “out” vs. “in,” and your own personal needs when it comes to your idea of a happy holiday. As invitations come in, schedule accordingly. Learning how to say a graceful “no” can be a lifesaver. “Thank you for your kind invitation, but…” You don’t have to get into the nitty-gritty details of why you’re declining.
3. Give yourself a gift.
Building some “me time” into your schedule isn’t selfish; it’s healthy and smart. At least once during the holidays, do something for yourself: Get a massage, lock the bathroom door and enjoy a bubble bath, get a sparkly red manicure, or splurge on the gorgeous sweater you’ve been eyeing (as long as it’s within your budget!). You’ll be surprised by how rejuvenated you’ll feel after spending a relatively small amount of time and/or money.
4. Enjoy a silent night now and then.
Take time to unplug from distractions, including cell phones. Holidays offer us the opportunity to deeply reconnect with one another. Have a good old-fashioned family conversation as you trim the tree. Enjoy some hot chocolate in a candlelit room. Attend a special religious service. Activities like these will help you to reset, de-stress, and live in the moment.
5. Give your community a gift.
During the holidays, a variety of faiths emphasize service, generosity, and love. Caring for others connects us meaningfully to people outside of our normal circles. Try to find something that’s age appropriate for your kids and that connects to their interests. You might buy an extra bag of dog food during a trip to the grocery store and drop it off at the Humane Society, help an elderly neighbor wrap presents and decorate, or take cookies to a battered women’s shelter. Activities like this will remind everyone that it really is better to give than to receive—and it will also help to counteract the shop-till-you-drop frenzy that runs rampant this time of year!
6. Be grateful.
At a time of year when most children think they are entitled to badger their parents with the gimme’s, gratitude is a great way to counteract materialism and selfishness. Teach your kids to say “thank you” for every gift they receive - even the three-sizes-too-small sweater from Great Aunt Matilda! Set aside some time to talk with your kids about all of the positive things that have happened in your family over the past year. You may be surprised by what they remember and value!
It’s easy to focus on all of the trappings of the holidays: decorations, lights, food, gifts, and more. But at the end of the day, those things - while pleasing - are not going to ensure that you or your family experience the “perfect” holiday. This season is best enjoyed from the heart, not the wallet. It’s a time for creativity, love, fun, generosity, and expressing those values in all that you do.