Each day brings Christmas a day closer and the birth of our granddaughter a day closer. Due date is January 1.
With Christmas less than two months away, I'm going to post some of the Christmas articles I've written over the years.
Here are some really simple ideas on how to take the stress out of the holidays.
We want the holidays to meaningful for our families, but it’s easy to become overwhelmed-- and over committed. The many meaningful activities make it hard to say “no.” There’s the food drive for the needy, the toy drive for children of inmates or foster children, the children’s musical the school parties to bake for, the office party…
Here are some steps to help you organize and take the stress out of your holidays.
Keep a calendar. Start right now! Write down expected activities. Include shopping trips, time to wrap presents and address Christmas cards.
Tiffany Wilhemen, mother of four says, “I write down all the activities on a calendar. If an activity comes up and one is already written on the calendar we sit down and talk about which one to do. We limit ourselves to one activity a day and no more than three events in a week. Writing them down helps us prioritize our Christmas activities.”
Start early. Do what you can now before the Christmas rush begins. Address Christmas cards and set them aside. Shop clearance racks for gifts, wrap them and set them aside.
Valerie Miller, mother of two school age children says, “I start shopping in July and I do a lot of home made stuff so I have the whole year to do it. I have a box that’s just for Christmas presents. When I buy a gift I put the person’s name on it and put it in the box. I always buy my Christmas cards after Christmas a year ahead when they are 75% off. I never pay more than $2.00 a box.”
Keep activities age appropriate. As much as you want to introduce your children to special activities, a five year old will not sit still for The Nutcracker and your ten year old won’t appreciate a full performance of The Messiah no matter how well it’s performed. Choose the library story hour or rent a children’s Christmas classic instead. Hire a favorite baby-sitter and rent a favorite movie for the children when you are attending adult activities unsuitable for children. You’ll enjoy the party more and your children won’t have to act like miniature adults.
Be selective in your social activities. There are a multitude of family gatherings, office parties, church get togethers and other events during the holiday season. Consult your calendar and schedule only parties that won’t overload your schedule. It’s stressful trying to attend the office party after attending your child’s school concert. What usually happens is that everyone is in such a hurry that arguments break out and no one has a good time.
“Christmas has become kind of a selfish time in our family,” says Teresa Cleary, writer and mother of three. “We used to throw lots of big parties, go to friends’ houses and so on. It was too taxing emotionally and physically -- too much rich food and late meals. We have scaled our Christmas back in the last two years. We accept few invitations, hold no big parties and generally try to make Christmas time a family time.”
Avoid over commitment. Again, this is where the calendar is handy. Baking cookies for school, making angel ornaments for the church cantata, sewing a shepherd’s costume and collecting canned goods all take time. Each activity seems easy in itself but added together they require a large time commitment. Only say yes to what you have time for. Schedule a day to do each project and don’t feel guilty about saying no. As worthy as each project is, your first priority is your family.
Julie Bradbury, mother of three, often finds herself over committed because her husband’s job carries a lot of responsibility. “If there are school activities, we choose them over the office obligations,” Julie says. “The kids know that we support them. They see us go to their activities so when we do have to go to a office function instead of one of their activities they understand and they’ve never complained.”
“When things become hectic the kids help out. They’re involved in the planning and it makes them feel important and part of what goes on,” Julie says.
Cut back on the extras. Don’t let tradition dictate your activities. Instead of preparing a whole meal for your extended family, ask each person to bring something such as pie, rolls, cranberries and so on. Put up a few less decorations this year or cut back on the baking. Your children will remember the fun time they spent on your lap hearing Christmas stories read more than they’ll remember the dress you spent hours sewing or the fancy nativity on the lawn.
Schedule special family times. Leave plenty of free evenings for popping popcorn and watching Christmas reruns. Ask your children to suggest some special things they’d like to do during the holiday season. Be sensitive to the needs of your children and try to plan meaningful activities for each of them. If you do have extra baking you need to do, plan extra time and let your children help.
“Even in the busiest part of the holidays I make sure we spend at least three or four nights home just doing the fun stuff together -- making Christmas cookies, popping popcorn and watching Frosty the Snowman, playing games or reading books,” says Tiffany Wilhemen. “What fun is Christmas if my children get lost in the shuffle?”
Keep sleep and eating habits as normal as possible. This is especially important for younger children. With so many parties and social events, it’s easy for them to fill up on sugary treats. This can make them irritable or over-active. Monitor sleeping time. A child with too many sugary treats and too little sleep will not function well or enjoy the holidays fully. Keep an infant’s schedule as normal as possible.
“I’m a fanatic about nutrition,” says Julie Bradbury. “When we are going to a party at night we eat ahead. We have a nutritious meal before going. The kids eat at the party but they make good choices.”
Keep the meaning of Christmas central. It’s easy to lose sight of what really matters while rushing to parties, baking, and shopping. Plan activities or quiet times for reflection. Focus on what's really important.Start planning now to have a fun, organized holiday season.
What stresses you the most about the holidays?
What is one thing you could remove that would make your holiday more stress free?