Pulling into any mall parking lot will confirm that the Christmas season is in full effect. Aside from the holiday sales and commercial rhetoric, the air is filled with the buzz of excitement and angst as we finalize plans for holiday gatherings and traditions. While the holidays can often be a boost to the spirit, they can also feel quite chaotic. Our regularly full daily list is now extended with finalizing travel plans, struggling to find the ‘right’ gift (or choosing not to gift at all), attending multiple holiday celebrations, and finding time to honour family traditions. Oh, and …most importantly, trying to make sure we do this all without overspending financially or psychologically!
So how can we make sure the holidays don’t leave us a tattered mess? The short answer is… good planning! Get the family together and discuss these 3 keys to creating a winning holiday game plan!
- Define Your Holiday Vision
What do you want your holidays to about? Be detailed! What is most important? Is it spending time with friends and loved ones? Great, doing what? Do you want to travel? Do you want to stay low-key and enjoy time at home? Is Christmas a religious time for your family? Decide first as an individual and then discuss together as a family, really sorting out what it is you all would like to get out of the holidays!
- Plan the Activities that Support Your Goals
After you decide what you want the holidays to look like, it is time to think about what activities will help you fulfill your vision of holiday bliss! For example, if your idea of the best Christmas ever is quiet time at home, snuggled up with the spouse and kiddos…. what will it take to make it happen? Will you have to respectfully decline party-time invitations from family and friends? Let the in-laws know you can’t make it this year? Or visit early so you are home in time for Santa’s arrival? Do you need to replenish your stock of Christmas movies so they are all ready to go as soon as you start vacation? If you are a gift giving family, how much do you want to spend? Is there someone you want to make sure you connect with? Great! Plan exactly how and when you will reach out or spend time together! Whatever needs to be considered, this is your chance to remove any chart your course towards Christmas cheer.
- Social Savvy – How to Navigate Holiday Expectations (& Pressures)!
You may be wondering… “What if my plans upset/disappoint someone?” or “I don’t want to ruin someone else’s Christmas!” Introducing our old friend… Holiday Guilt !!!! This can often be the trickiest part of navigating holiday festivities. Often, we have to manage the expectations of others, including immediate and extended family members. In her Dec 10th article aptly entitled ‘How to Prevent a Difficult Mother-In-Law from Ruining the Holidays,’ Tiffy Thompson explored tips for managing the stereotypically maligned Mother-In-Law relationship. As we look to the needs of our parents, children, siblings, in-laws, friends, etc., it can be hard to find space for our own needs, leaving us feeling overlooked and later resentful. In most instances, special occasions tend to amplify any conflict or animosity that already exists in a relationship, so it is important to have open dialogue that encourages compromise and acceptance. Explore your expectations of others and ask yourself if those expectations are flexible and inclusive or have they just always been. Where did they come from? Are they still relevant? If not, where are you willing to compromise and what will you not? For example, if you are a parent and you expect your newly married adult child to come visit for the entire holiday, does that leave room for him or her to develop their own holiday traditions with their new spouse? How can you find ways to connect, giving them the freedom to develop these traditions without the guilt or expectation that they come home as they did as a bachelor(ette)? In most cases, the offence, hurt feelings, anger, resentment, and sadness come from an unmet desire to feel connected. To purge this negative energy, we end up in frivolous arguments that have nothing to do with the unspoken pain inside. To avoid the emotional firestorm that the holidays can bring, be open about your desire to connect and work together to nurture your relationship. Christmas is not the only time of year we can be close. Sometimes, the best gift we can give is a re-commitment to the relationships that are meaningful to us. So talk about connection, make it priority, and plan ways to connect that feel good and work for each of you.
Ultimately, some activities might be easier to plan… shopping trips, tree decorating, etc., but working together to ensure everyone gets the most out of the season can feel a bit like an uphill battle. Going in with an open mind and letting go of the “perfect” holiday often helps holiday planning go a lot smoother! Don’t forget to breathe and when it doubt… ask for a Christmas hug or high five and come back to planning a little later!!!!
All the best this Holiday Season! 😉