During the holidays, you’re torn between pressure to complete preparations and pressure to please everyone — your children, your parents, in-laws, siblings, step-relatives and friends. Whether you’re married or single, with or without children, parents, more so than others in the family, continue to make demands. Susan Newman, PhD, author of Nobody’s Baby Now: Reinventing Your Adult Relationship with Your Mother and Father, offers some solutions for being spread too thin, for reducing — and eliminating — your stress, and for raising your enjoyment level.
Following this checklist will improve the most important connections in your life way beyond the holiday season!
1) Exercise your rights to protect your marriage and your children
Holiday stress usually comes from trying to fulfill obligations and hopes of others. You have every right to put your health and the comfort of your spouse and children at the top of your list by not accepting added responsibilities.
2) Alternate holidays with different branches of the family
You can’t be in two places at once, so charting out what days will be spent where should save you some grief from those vying for your limited time.
3) Change a long-held tradition if need be
Spend the day before or after a holiday with one set of relatives so the time will be more relaxed and you won’t be packing up just when everyone seems to have settled in.
4) Be flexible in how you celebrate
Try new neutral locations, begin new rituals and let go of old ones especially if they remind you of a parent’s death or divorce.
5) Explain the arrangements you plan to follow clearly and early to everyone involved
Devise a schedule, inform your relatives, and stick to it.
6) Take breaks with your children or spouse when visiting family or having guests over
The holiday should include special time for just your little group as well.
7) Decline some invitations
Just say no if you can’t fit everything in or shorten the length of a visit.
8) Lower your expectations particularly if you are hosting the festivities
The purpose of this celebration is to be together and have fun — the holiday is not a Martha Stewart entertaining contest.
9) Spell out “do and don’t rules” for your children and ask relatives to follow them
This will eliminate much unpleasantness and frustration for you.
10) Calmly remind grandparents that you are the one left to undo the problems they create
You shouldn’t have to deal with toddlers on a sugar rush before bed because Grandpa sneaked them sweets.
11) Divide available time between sets of grandparents as fairly as possible
Often one set will get to spend more holiday time with your family, but you can do other things to make them feel connected and loved: talk to your kids about less-seen grandparents, keep a picture of them in your child’s room, help them establish e-mail accounts for quick and easy access to relatives who can’t be with you on holidays.
12) Tell family members ahead of time what children might like as holiday gifts
This way you can avoid both child and giver disappointment.
13) Don’t make gifts the focus.
Remind kids and adults to keep the gift list to a minimum. The holiday celebration is not all about the presents!
14) Remember that children easily become overstimulated by the holiday rush
Kids react to your stress. Remind people so they don’t plan too many or too-late evening activities.