Making choices about what to do together and separate during the holidays can make things easier and more fun. If not everyone wants to do the same things, how much are you trying to make it an all or nothing event? You can teach your kids that in order to enjoy life, you sometimes do things separately. You don't have to compromise everything in order to have your own joy. Keeping the holidays to a season rather than just one day is also an easy way to be able to spread out the fun. As a family, choose what you would like to do on different days. If visiting extended family is something that you enjoy (and yes how many spend time with extended family because they feel they have to) check in with each person and see how they feel. It isn't wrong for kids or adults to want to limit the time they spend with other family members.
Kids have great ideas about what is fun to do. Be willing to be see what else is possible to spend time together. Take the traditions you always do and change it up a bit. For gift giving, take an afternoon and spend it paying it forward to people you don't even know. Watch the joy and surprise as you make a difference in someone's life but only if it would be fun and bring you joy.
How do you know if your kids even like what you do for the holidays?
I was very surprised one year when I found out from my son that he didn't like putting up the tree. Of course my first response was how can that be? But then I didn't really like doing it much either at that time. Having a chat with your kids may end up saving you some time and allow you more time to do things that create more memories and fun with your kids. We found that we liked going to the movies on Christmas Day. I had never even considered that an option. Each year we ask each other what would be fun? Do we want to do something different this year? It is nice to know that we can change things up and keep it fresh and not fall into the trappings of what we have always done before.
What would take the stress out of the holidays?
First of all, when you feel stressed at holiday time, stop and ask if this is really your stress or are you picking up the stress of others? I know I have done that. Once I acknowledge that I am not really feeling stressed, and that it must belong to someone else, I just send it back and go on about my merry way of choosing what I would like to be doing. If the stress is yours, what can you let go of that can create more ease? What are you holding onto doing or being that doesn't really fit for you? Are you trying to meet other people's expectations? What would it take to give yourself permission to live your holiday time as you like? Are you neglecting taking care of yourself? Consider treating yourself to quiet time, reading time, fun time with friends, a massage, getting your Bars run, exercise, a nice hot bath, -you get the idea. This winter season is a time for us to stop and reflect. Just as nature takes this time to hibernate and restore so can we humans.
What if the holidays really were a joyful time?
Have you ever noticed how resistant people can be to truly being joyful? Like it isn't allowed or something. In my life, it wasn't something I consciously focused on being. I was brought up to believe that joy came to us from outside of ourselves. My more recent experience is that my real joy comes from within and is always there for me to connect with and be. I can choose to not be happy, or I can blame people or situations around me for my lack of joy, but what does that teach our kids? As parents we have all seen our kids be happy and full of joy regardless of what else is happening. What would it take for us to have that kind of joy not just during the holidays but all year long? What else can we learn from our kids? And before you begin to buy into that it isn't okay for us to be happy when so many other people have it worse off or are struggling... what if by choosing to step into your own true joy brings more change to those around you? What if being the joy you were meant to be, gave people more hope and allowance to be happy too?