Here comes more – more to do, more to buy, more patience, more memories, more everything! When life is already filled to the brim, there may not be room for more. Then, all that holiday magic turns into holiday stress, unless you make room in your schedules, in your home and in your heart for the holiday season.
Make room for holiday adventures
There is so much more to do during the holidays: visits to Santa Claus, holiday pictures, shopping, parties, then all the planning and preparations for celebrations with family and friends. Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? Eight nights of grand Chanukah festivities or a few quiet evenings with immediate family? You don’t have to do it all – you can’t!
Before you add a dozen new things to your family schedule, take out at least a half dozen other things. How will you prioritize family sanity and fun? Mom’s exercise might not be the thing to bump off the schedule when she needs extra patience. Children’s bedtimes can be stretched once a week but maybe not four nights in a row. Consolidate play dates. Reconsider the number of presents to buy. Simplify house chores just for this month.
Before you say “yes or “no”, consider what’s realistic and what truly matters to you and your children. Holiday Light Show or The Nutcracker? The fancy cookie exchange with friends or slice-n-bake cookies with your kids? If it’s not fun, if it’s not meaningful, let it go.
Make room for holiday decorations
Chanukiahs and dreidels, Christmas trees and an elf on a shelf – holiday decorations need space for families to gather and celebrate. Kids can be overwhelmed with clutter. Decorations aren’t about Jonesing the neighbors; they are the tangible signs and symbols of what the holidays mean to your family. Kids don’t need everything. Kids need connections to the stories of the holidays, family stories of special ornaments or cherished treasures, family traditions – like memories of baby’s first Christmas or comparing the size of the Chanukah handprint from last year to now, cultural and religious traditions – the meaning behind the books, songs and rituals. Use your decorations, not to create a picture-perfect home, but as the center of holiday activities for your children to fully experience the joy of the season.
Make room for toys and gifts
Holidays are definitely more commercial these days. You can try to limit and regulate but inevitably more stuff is coming in. When children are overwhelmed, even the best toys and gifts lose their significance. Before gifts start arriving, get your children involved in giving away some of the outgrown or less interesting toys. Your child can also help choose where the toys should go: a charity, a hospital, a school, a friend. Your children’s generosity and kindness is as important as all those beautifully wrapped gifts.
Help your child manage the holiday gimme’s by making lists not once but a few times. Go through toy catalogues together each week before the holidays and observe which toys remain favorites over time and which were one-time impulse requests. Help your child to understand that what we want in the moment isn’t always the same as what lasts. Young children can also take inventory of their toys: what they play with all the time, what is special to have every once in a while, what is boring but fun for their best friend and playdates, what would never be missed at the bottom of the toy pile. It doesn’t take long to discover everything doesn’t bring the same amount of happiness.
Make room for family
See the holidays through your child’s eyes. Children see generosity and goodness, not credit card debt. They want your attention and love, not four extra presents under the tree. Frazzled and stressed out parents never make for a better holiday. Consider making your family sanity and family fun the priority this December. Of course, you want your children to be happy but children cannot be happy when parents are frantically disengaged and distracted. Stop and breathe. Pause for connections – silliness, stillness, laughter, hugs and love. Stop before running three extra errands. Stop before everyone is tired and cranky (including parents). Stop before you miss the chance to enjoy your child on this particular Christmas or this particular Chanukah.
It is a season of peace and joy. Make room in your day, in your home, in your heart for the miracles of the holiday season.