Happier Holidays

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev

A few Christmases back, my family discovered that nobody liked shopping for a live tree.  It was a cold, wet night and we had just come back home from finally picking out the “perfect” tree.  I was impatient, my husband was grumpy, my son was nearly in tears.  

“I hate this.” I said, under my breath. “You hate it?” My husband snapped. “I’m only doing this for you!”  By now my son is in tears.  “Why do we even do this?” He sobbed.  Then it hit us.  Maybe we were doing the holidays all wrong.  We were working hard and making ourselves miserable all for the sake of “family tradition”.

So we changed things up.  Our artificial tree now sits in a closet in the living room.  We don’t have to trudge around in the cold and dark, picking out just the right live tree and drag it home, wet and miserable.  Hooray for new traditions!

I also teach preschool.  Over the years I have watched parents frantically trying to make the “perfect” holiday for their families, only to end up frustrated, angry, and in tears.  Well, maybe “perfect” isn’t what we need.  Maybe we all need to slow down, take a look and assess what really matters, and give ourselves a break.

Here are some thoughts and ideas which I have used, and shared with families that you might find useful;

First of all, Kids need consistency.  This time of year, a child’s whole world begins to change.  It gets dark early, stores are decorated differently, television shows start their “specials”,  sparkling lights are everywhere, everybody is talking and excited about the “Holidays”.  Exciting as it may be, the change in their environment is stressful for a child.  You will do your children more of a favor to keep home life as consistent as possible. Keep your regular schedules, don’t over decorate, do what you would normally do everyday, and don’t change things too much.

Secondly, Don’t try to do too much. I know, everything looks like so much fun!  North Pole Cruise!  Disney on Ice!  Ice skating!  Light shows!  Sleigh Rides!  Who wouldn’t want to cram as much excitement into the holidays as possible?  I’m here to tell you, exciting as it may be, it’s exhausting and stressful for a little kid.  Slow down, assess what few things are the most important, and save the rest for another time.

Thirdly, (and here’s where I struggle) Your child doesn’t need a whole lot of gifts.  This is crazy difficult for me as a grandma.  If I don’t hold myself back, I start shopping in mid October and don’t stop until Christmas Eve!  There is so much to buy for my babies!  But, truth be told, it doesn’t really make them happy.  In fact, it can make them miserable.  As soon as one gift is open, it’s time to put it aside and grab the next.  No real time to enjoy and experience the gift, we’re on a time schedule here!  Every Christmas, without fail, someone has ended up in tears.  Our new plan is this;  A book and jammies for Christmas Eve, and two gifts each on Christmas Day.  I promise you, this is way more difficult for the parent than it is for the kids.

My point is this; the Holidays should be a time of joy and family togetherness and peace.  If you are finding that it has become a time of tears, stress and frustration, it may be time to slow down, reassess, relax and make the holidays happier for everyone.

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