As the song says, "It's the most wonderful time of the year." Or is it? Are the holidays like a Hallmark card in your home? Or do you anticipate some tense moments? Now is the time to think about how you can get some help with preparations and how to handle everyone being together. It's never too early to prepare and have the best holidays ever. It's always wonderful when both my kids are home... well, maybe not always. No question that we all love each other to pieces, and yet, we can get on each others' nerves. We're family, after all, and it's the one place you can get away with being yourself, and still be loved. The rest of the world isn't always so understanding. Any time family gets together can be stressful. Now add to that the aura of the holiday season, and the hopes that it will be picture-perfect. A little advance planning can make a big difference, and I'm not just talking about food and decorations. I want you to sit quietly for a few minutes and visualize two holidays...
What do your holidays usually look like -- the interactions, the preparation? No sugar-coating (that's only for cookies). If there is tension, what's it about and who's involved?
What is your vision of a peaceful and meaningful holiday experience? It's not about the perfection of the Hallmark card. Maybe it's more of one thing and less of another.
The goal is 'better'. Perfect doesn't exist, and if you are not satisfied with anything less than perfect, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. How wonderful would it be to look back and think that this year was more loving and enjoyable than the last? You've heard me say many times that communication is key in nourishing relationships. My suggestions for you revolve around talking about what works and what doesn't, and how to do it differently the next time. 1) Do you do most of the preparation yourself? Do you feel resentful about it? This is a conversation waiting to happen with your kids. Creating the setting that everyone enjoys should be shared by all. Sharing in the preparation will take the pressure off you, make you easier to be around, lead to beautiful moments and amazing memories, too. Just remember... what they do for you, with you, doesn't have to be perfect! It's the experience you're going for. 2) As for all that 'together time' and time off from school, there are bound to be skirmishes. Now would be a good time to take a look back with your kids about holidays past. Talk about what they loved and want more of, and then get their input about what was difficult. You want their input! If you do all the talking and venting, it becomes your laundry list of complaints, and they will not engage in problem-solving just for you.
3) Extended family. Do you get a stomachache thinking about a particular someone in your extended family? Do your kids or spouse get whiny about spending time with him or her? Time for a family huddle. Strategize now about how to be with, cope with, deal with that person. Create a secret code or gesture if you need to be rescued. With all the anticipation and excitement, mental preparation for the holidays is crucial. However you celebrate during the dark winter days, I wish you and yours a loving and meaningful celebration.
Fern Weis is a certified life coach who learned that caring and good intentions are not enough in parenting. In fact, they are often the problem! Fern supports parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations, including addiction recovery. She helps parents release guilt, end enabling and confidently prepare their children to thrive through life's challenges. Her articles are featured in Thrive Global, Medium, Motherly, The Teen Mentor, and Bergen County Moms. Learn more about coaching and classes at www.fernweis.com. And then download your free guide, "Five Powerful Steps to Get Your Teen to Talk." For information on Family Recovery programs, visit www.familyrecoverypartners.com.