Welcome back! Lisa here. Hopefully last week’s post helped you set some expectations for your holiday season. Now that you have the main ingredients you need to have an enjoyable holiday season you may have realized that your expectations don’t necessarily match up with what other people want you to do.
Just like you’ve figured out what you need to make your holiday season great, other people have figured that out too, and in some cases, they’re going to want you to do things that make their holiday enjoyable. It’s great when their expectations line up with yours, but what happens when they don’t? You’re going to have to tell someone “no.” And that doesn’t always go over well, especially during the holidays.
Clashes could arise over traveling or hosting a holiday gathering, events that your family or friends want you to attend, and school/work/community events that typically require your attendance, planning, and/or participation. So, how do you decide what to do and, sometimes more importantly, what not to do?
The first thing to remember is that you don’t have to do it all. There may be a number of holiday traditions that you and your family are opting out of or changing this year, and that’s okay. You may also just not have the energy or bandwidth to do everything you normally do during the holiday season.
Think back to last week’s exercise and keep your expectations in mind. Talk with your family about their expectations and if you all have different priorities and expectations, then come to some sort of compromise. If there are things that are really important to your kids or your partner/spouse that just aren’t that important to you, let them take charge of making those things happen.
The holidays are a great time for outsourcing. You and your spouse/partner can divide and conquer. Your kids can also help out with tasks that they can manage on their own. There may be holiday tasks that you have always done on your own, but this is a great time of year to ask for and accept some help, even if it means that things don’t go exactly the way you envision. Remember what’s actually more important to you- spending time with family and enjoying one another or creating a “Pinterest-perfect” holiday.
If there are things that you and your family want to be part of your holiday this year, figure out if you need to do them yourself or if someone else could do them- whether that’s ordering some components of your holiday meals instead of cooking the entire thing yourself or finding shortcuts to get other things done, like getting help with running errands instead of doing everything yourself.
Getting your kids involved in helping out with holiday-related tasks also helps take care of a big thing that comes up at this time every year– what to do with the kids during winter break. As I’m sure you know, kids need to have some structure during winter break or the transition back to school after the holidays can be a struggle. This will be true this year whether your kids have been attending school in person or virtually. They will have a lot of time on their hands and they’ll need something to do. But the reality is that you can’t keep your kids entertained 24/7 during the break- they have to do some of that themselves. Having holiday-related tasks for them to do can be a big help, especially if the tasks are related to things that are important to them. Get them to help with making and putting up decorations or sorting through ornaments. If your kids are old enough to cook on their own, this might be a good year to allow them to take over preparing part of your holiday meal.
No matter how much you plan out your holiday, unexpected requests are going to come up. Check out our handy Holiday Decision Tree to help you choose whether you’re saying “yes” or “no” to requests. You won’t be able to get out of everything you don’t want to do but asking yourself a few simple questions can make it much easier to decide which requests to accept and when you need to give yourself a break. At the end of the day, the goal is to make sure that you and your family enjoy the holiday.
Sarah here. With only 1 month left in 2020, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Eve are right around the corner. Winter break is fast approaching for school-agers. Some college students are already home for the holidays, as some universities opted to have students complete the semester remotely after Thanksgiving break. No matter how your family usually celebrates the holidays, how you all typically ring in the New Year, or what you do over winter break, chances are that things will be different this year. In thinking about how 2020 has been different and what that means for the holidays, I came across a few amusing gift ideas:
Has 2020 been a challenging year? Absolutely. Have families experienced a tremendous amount of stress this year? You bet. Will winter break be more stressful than usual this year? In some ways yes, in some ways no. I mean, there’s the potential stress that always comes with families having a lot of unstructured time. There’s the stress of having a long list of things to get done. And there’s the stress of deciding how you and your family are going to spend the holidays. Trying to figure out the “right thing” to do in a global pandemic is pretty exhausting. Between late October and the end of the year, there are multiple holidays and occasions that usually involve larger gatherings with family and/or friends. This means that there are multiple times in close succession that parents have to figure out what’s best for their family, then make and execute plans. So, at this point in the year, you and many other parents may be feeling more stressed and burned out than usual.
But, don’t despair. Because this year, there’s also some stress that you may be opting out of for one reason or another. This year, a lot of families are sidestepping travel and back-to-back social engagements in favor of something smaller and lower key. Families are also less likely to be hosting huge gatherings. This means that they will have a slower, less hectic pace and fewer responsibilities during the holidays.
A lot of families are also scaling back on massive purchases and are instead making presents (using the many talents and hobbies that they uncovered during quarantine) or opting for modest gift budgets. And, when it comes to shopping, going to smaller, local stores, utilizing in-store pickup at larger stores or shopping online can take a lot of the stress out of gift buying.
When it comes to the holidays, people always talk about spending time together. We often hear parents stressing about “quality time” or worrying about not appreciating those moments that they’re “supposed to” treasure because their kids “will only be this age once.” This year has involved a LOT of together time for most families. Like, way more than usual. Do you love your family? Of course. Are you tired of spending so much time with your immediate family? Quite possibly. Do you long for the days when your teens or college-aged kids were rarely home? Definitely, maybe. Does that make you a terrible parent? Not even a little.
I am someone who really, really enjoys spending time by myself. Actually, it’s more than that. As an introvert, I need time by myself to recharge and to feel content. That doesn’t mean anything bad about me, about how I feel about my family or about how much I love and care about them. That’s just part of who I am- I am someone who genuinely enjoys being alone. So, while the holidays typically do involve spending more time than usual together, this year, I am hopeful that I’ll actually have a little down time by myself.
You may also be in this boat. A lot of family members love each other, enjoy spending time together, are thankful that everyone is safe and healthy…and they may feel less than enthused about spending a ton of “quality time” together this holiday season. That’s okay! This winter be sure to approach yourself and your family with an attitude of compassion. It’s been a tough year, even for people who have made it through 2020 relatively unscathed. Instead of feeling sad, frustrated, angry or resentful about things being different this December, remember that it’s okay for things to be different. Sometimes change can be good, even when we don’t like it. If we accept that things are just different this year and that they won’t be “perfect,” then it frees us up to enjoy how things are right now. That means we don’t have to compare this holiday season to what it usually is or what it “should be” like.
To help you get through this December, Lisa created a Holiday Survival Guide just for you. Check it out and jot down your thoughts about how you’d like for things to go this holiday season as well as what you absolutely need for things to be enjoyable this holiday season. It’s sort of like coming up with your holiday wish list and then deciding which people, things, activities and/or traditions are critical to your enjoyment of the holidays. My guess is that you can still keep a lot of those essential ingredients in the mix, even if the recipe is a bit different this year.
If baking and decorating cookies with your family is what you look forward to every December, but this year you’re just too tired to make cookies from scratch, that’s okay. Why not buy premade cookie dough? Heck- you could even buy premade cookies and decorate them with icing and sprinkles. Does being surrounded by decorations make it “feel like” the holidays but you are just too burned out to decorate this year? Why not do some of your own decorating at home? Inside and/or outside- just keep it simple. Then you and your family can drive around in your neighborhood or even farther away to check out holiday hotspots. You still get to enjoy decorations- in this case, it’ll just be other families’ holiday decorations. The bonus here is that you won’t have to do all of the cleanup come January. :) It won’t be the same as usual, but if you keep to the spirit of the activity, then different is okay.
And who knows? Maybe 2020 has helped you and your family discover new activities and interests that you will want to incorporate into future holiday traditions. Whether you’re modifying traditions, streamlining holiday plans or devising some new ideas, let yourself off the hook for having the “perfect” holiday. While winter break can be one of the most wonderful times of the year, it often isn’t…because having lots of expectations and competing demands creates a lot of stress. Do yourself a favor and use our Holiday Survival Guide to develop your own unique recipe for holiday success!
One parting thought. Lisa and I are truly proud of our little blog! The whole reason we started this blog was to help moms and families. We wanted to support a wider audience- to serve more families than the ones for whom we provide clinical services- and we’ve done that each and every week this year. When things were really tough during quarantine, we even wrote 2 blogs per week to make sure we were supporting our readers! But just like your family’s holiday plans may look different this year, how we support you and your family will look different in 2021. Just like we suggested for you, we will absolutely be keeping with the spirit of the activity. Our goal is still to support families. We’ll just be doing it in a new and exciting way. In 2021, we will be starting a podcast geared toward helping young adults navigate their transition into adulthood. We are excited to do something new. We hope to engage our audience and provide meaningful, useful support in a fun and interesting format. Join our mailing list to get the inside scoop and be the first to hear more details about our podcast!
Hi there! Welcome back. Lisa here. Hopefully last week’s post helped you breathe a little easier. While you’re taking some deep breaths and centering yourself, now’s a great time to think about what you’re grateful for. We’re entering the holiday season and while it may look different than it has in years past, there is still a sense of busyness and frenzy that accompanies the season. If your typical holiday plans have been disrupted, it can feel like there’s nothing to celebrate. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Even if your life feels unsettled, there are still things to be grateful for.
Research has consistently shown the benefits of practicing gratitude or developing an “attitude of gratitude.” Consistent practice of gratitude has been related to better relationships, improved physical and mental health, improved self-care, better resilience, increased empathy, decreased aggression, decreased social comparison, and even improved sleep.
Gratitude is not a magic pill. You won’t necessarily feel better immediately or develop a permanent rosy outlook. The benefits of gratitude are cumulative, so you’ll notice that you feel better over time. It will also become easier to bring to mind those people and things for which you are grateful.
Especially at this time of year, it seems like everyone is talking about gratitude. But what is it? Is gratitude just a matter of making a list of things you are thankful for and then moving on to your next task? Is it just a way of tricking yourself into believing that everything is okay even when it’s not?
Nope! Gratitude is not a matter of looking for a silver lining or appreciating suffering. Instead, it’s a practice of recognizing and then actively appreciating who and what adds to your life. If you’re going through a difficult time, gratitude may involve appreciating the people who are helping you through that hard time or feeling thankful for the resources you have that are making things just a bit easier. As human beings, it’s impossible to ignore negative events for long. Gratitude allows us to recognize and appreciate the good that exists alongside the bad.
Hopefully as you read this, you’re starting to think about some things you feel grateful for. If you’re like most people, the first things that come to mind are the people and things that feel like a “given” to be grateful for- like your family, your friends, your home, and other big things like that. Those are typically pretty easy to access when we start our “gratitude lists.”
But what happens when your kids are getting on your nerves, you and your partner are arguing about something, and you just found out that your house needs the roof repaired? Gratitude may feel kind of hard to come by in those moments. That’s when you look to the little things. You may have enjoyed a delicious cup of coffee this morning, you may have gotten everything you needed at the grocery store in only one trip, you may have gotten to take walk today because the weather was great. See where I’m going here? The little things are also a great place to focus our gratitude. Most of the time we’re not having huge accomplishments or major life events that are clearly moments for gratitude. Being able to recognize and feel grateful for the small things can sometimes make all the difference.
An issue that comes up for a lot of the parents and kids that Sarah and I work with is how they can practice gratitude. For many people, just making a list is not a good fit. This is partly because making a list can feel like a chore- just something to check off your daily To Do’s. Gratitude is a feeling, so you have to do something to access that feeling. Instead of just listing off who or what you’re grateful for, think about why you feel gratitude. Then just sit with that feeling for a minute. Go ahead, try it now. Write, think, or say out loud, “I am grateful for _____ because _____. The “because” is important as it allows us to access the feeling of gratitude. Really pay attention to how gratitude feels. Once you’re able to generate that feeling in yourself, you’ll be better able to activate gratitude in the moment.
While thinking about and feeling gratitude will have benefits for you in the long run, it’s also important to share your gratitude with others. How nice does it feel when someone thanks you for something and you can tell they genuinely mean it? Sharing gratitude lets others know that they’re important to you and that you recognize the positive ways they impact your life. It also strengthens your connections with others, which improves your relationships and your sense of well-being. When you’re thinking about and feeling gratitude for other people, also take moment to think about how you can show them or tell them that you’re grateful. Sharing gratitude doesn’t have to be a big production. Simply saying thank you and meaning it is often enough. Other times, you’ll want to say or do more. The key at those times is to be specific- share exactly why you’re grateful for them.
So, as the holiday season gets underway and as we all continue to cope with everything that is going on in the world, remember to take some time for gratitude. You’ll feel better for having done so.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Sarah and I appreciate you for supporting our efforts and for using the information we share to make your lives and the lives of your family members healthier and happier.
Check out Greater Good in Action at UC Berkeley for some helpful gratitude practices that you and your family can use: https://ggia.berkeley.edu/#filters=gratitude
Each week, you will hear from Sarah or Lisa on topics related to your needs as a busy mom. We will talk about everything from parenting values, to life hacks, to realistic self-care. (Dads are welcome to the party too!)