Tag: holidays

Building Stronger Family Relationships During the Holidays

Building Stronger Family Relationships During the Holidays

During the holiday season, there can be a lot of stress. We're overscheduled, our budgets are tight, and we're dreading that family visit that includes old Uncle Harold and his distasteful jokes. Despite all of that, we can come through this holiday season with stronger family relationships if we try. We just need to create opportunities to disengage from electronic devices and promote face-to-face conversations.

Stronger relationships won't "just happen." We have to work on them, and we have to be purposeful about it. Here are a few tips for doing that:

1. Plan a favorite family activity. Our family enjoys snowshoeing, card games, and game nights. None of those costs much, they don't require much planning, and they all provide opportunity to talk to each other. Some of our best memories have been made while snowshoeing when we're taking in beautiful views and laughing about something one of the kids said. Find an activity your family enjoys, and be sure to do that during this holiday season.

2. Try something new. Take a cooking class together. Try downhill skiing. Check out a museum you haven't visited before. While we love our familiar favorites, sometimes it's nice to try something we haven't done before. Doing that as a family provides an opportunity to work as a team, get vulnerable, and help each other be successful. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll make memories.

3. Volunteer together. Nothing builds a family bond like doing good work together. Whether you take a shift serving lunch at the homeless shelter or simply decide to shovel driveways in your neighborhood, you'll create a bond with your family while helping other people. Working together to make life easier for someone else forms a bond like nothing else.

4. Give Secret Santa gifts to each other. Sometimes we focus so much on what we're getting that we forget how giddy we can feel when we give. If that's the case this year, draw names and start a Secret Santa program in your family. Simply give each other tiny gifts for a few days in a row. Your family will bond while thoughtfully choosing gifts for each other, and when you reveal who the Santas are, you'll have lots of laughs and great discussion.

5. Deliver cookies to friends and sing Christmas carols on the way. For this one, you'll spend time together while baking and decorating the cookies, and you'll get time together in the car while you deliver them. Christmas carols add to the festive atmosphere, so turn them up loud and sing along. Having fun together as a family is a great way to build a bond. Don't feel pressure to make it perfect though. If buying cookies and singing along to Stone Temple Pilots is more your speed, do that.

These ideas should help you think of ways to spend time with your family while promoting stronger relationships. Choose an activity you all can enjoy, and utilize it to start having conversations. You'll laugh together and create memories for years to come.

Building Stronger Family Relationships During the Holidays
Encouraging Good Behavior During the Holidays

Encouraging Good Behavior During the Holidays

I often wish my kids would behave more like adults, especially in public or at formal events. Let's face it: I want perfection. I really want them to display good table manners, say "please" and "thank you," make small talk with good eye contact, and refrain from doing anything that might embarrass me. I wish for the same during the holidays. There's nothing like a family dinner or holiday party to test even the most well-behaved child's behavior. I've learned over the years, though, that perfection is totally unrealistic and actually even overrated.

Parents may feel out of control during the holidays, but we aren't entirely powerless. Here are a few tips for surviving the holidays with kids:

1. Get enough sleep. Everyone gets cranky when tired, so be sure your children get enough sleep during the holiday season and especially before a big holiday event. Same for you. Enough said.

2. Be reasonable. Young children cannot be expected to behave perfectly for 8 hours straight. They also cannot keep a formal gown spotless for an entire day. They cannot sit perfectly still or put up with their annoying cousin for hours on end. Be sure to think through the reality of the situation and don't ask too much of your kids.

3. Prepare your children. Bring toys or activities to keep them busy during holiday gatherings. Make sure you have sufficient snacks. Discuss the plan with them so they know what to expect. Talk about the manners you want them to display. If there will be a guest present who is troublesome for your children, talk about how to handle it ahead of time. Give your kids an escape route if they sense trouble starting. Let them know they can come to you if there is a problem. It's a good idea to inform them how long they will be at the event, what foods will be available, and what your expectations are. Talk about it all so your children are well prepared.

4. Make corrections in private. You'll embarrass your children if you correct them in public, so if a correction is necessary do it in private. Your child will appreciate the respect, and a break from the activity is a good idea anyway. If a situation at a party gets completely out of hand, simply leave. Sometimes it's better to just cut your losses. You can discuss the behavior after everyone has calmed down.

5. Get over it. Nothing is perfect, including children and holidays. If an event ends up less than enjoyable, don't dwell on it. Simply learn from it and move on. You may be disappointed or embarrassed, but the important thing is to remind your children that you love them. Your family is so much more important than a single event or holiday.

The holiday season is full of fun and enjoyment, but it can be overwhelming and downright stressful at times for both parents and children. Plan well, and follow our tips, and your family will make it through this holiday season unscathed.

When Kids Are Impolite
Managing Family Dysfunction During the Holidays

Managing Family Dysfunction During the Holidays

If you have a family-- at all-- you have experienced family dysfunction during the holidays at some point. We laugh about it when we watch movies like National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, but it isn't so funny when it happens in real life. Uncles, cousins, great-aunts, and in-laws can be sources of real tension during the holiday season.

Family dysfunction is inevitable. We don't get to choose our family members. Rather, we're thrown together in close quarters with folks who may be very different from us. Their values vary. Their politics vary. Their skills, interests, and opinions vary. All those variations can cause a whole lot of friction. The holidays can be a true test of our tolerance.

So, when the dysfunction rears its ugly head, how can you manage it? 

1. Look forward. Try to remember that this, too, shall pass. The holidays aren't a never-ending event (even if it feels that way!), so look to the future. Keep the end in view. There is a light at the end of the dysfunction tunnel. It's a lot easier to be kind and let things roll off your back when you remind yourself that in a few hours, or in a few days, you'll be back to your normal life. Don't dwell on the current situation; it will end soon.

2. Agree to disagree. Don't allow yourself to get sucked in to the muck. Arguing over politics, religion, or some other topic serves no good purpose. Stay out of those emotionally charged conversations. You don't have to prove that you're right, and you don't have to try to change other people's minds. It's okay to disagree (kindly). Simply move on. Walk away if you have to. 

3. Give grace. Your family members aren't perfect, and neither are you. They will screw up during family gatherings, and they will say stupid things. So will you. Instead of beating them over the head each time, dish out grace instead. Forgive, and move on. Be kind and respectful. Hopefully your family members will be as gracious toward you, but give them grace without expectation. Dysfunction can be diffused with a healthy dose of grace.

The holidays don't have to be the catalyst for family feuds. We can experience peace and fun during the holidays with family members if we purposefully manage the inevitable dysfunction. Strategize ahead of time, using the guidelines outlined in this article, and you'll be well on your way!

Managing Family Dysfunction During the Holidays
The 3 Habits of Ridiculously Happy Holiday People

The 3 Habits of Ridiculously Happy Holiday People

We all know them. They're those rare unusually happy people who seem to actually love the holidays. Nothing seems to bother them. They're whistling when the rest of us are grumbling. They're smiling when we're frowning. They bake cookies while the rest of us are just trying to survive. Family dysfunction, tight budgets, and awkward holiday parties just don't seem to ever affect them.

What's their secret?

Those folks who seem to actually love and enjoy the holidays have 3 habits in common. Knowing what those habits are can help the rest of us to enjoy the holidays more, too. We may never be as ridiculously happy as they are, but we can certainly take steps in the right direction. Here's what sets them apart:

1. They focus on the reason for the season. This doesn't mean they don't have problems and that everything is perfect. It isn't. But happy holiday people tend to remember there is a reason for the holiday season, and they focus on that. They don't allow themselves to get caught up in the muck of the season. Instead, they keep the true meaning of the holidays in the forefront of their minds and they remember their blessings. 

2. They plan. They plan their holiday budget well in advance. They decide what family members they will visit and put those visits on their calendars. They make lists of gifts to buy, and they do it early in the season. Planning out the holiday season takes some work but allows them to decide what is truly important so they can say no to everything else. They plan so they won't get over-scheduled and won't overspend. They know they can't do everything, so they plan what they can.

3. They develop and utilize effective communication skills. We all know that politics and religion are topics that can create tension at holiday functions. Beyond that, happy holiday people know how to resolve conflict, edify others, and speak kindly. They don't "stir the pot," ask uncomfortable questions, or criticize others. They've worked hard on their social and communication skills, and they use them during the holidays. They keep things positive and don't lose their emotional intelligence.

We can all become happier holiday people. We just need to keep the right things in perspective, plan well, and communicate effectively. If we begin now, we can ensure the happy holiday season that we envision.

The 3 Habits of Ridiculously Happy Holiday People
How to Stay Sane During the Holidays

How to Stay Sane During the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or something else, this time of year can be overwhelming and filled with stress. The shopping mall is something like a nightmare, there are family dynamics to deal with, and our children get overtired and fussy. Holidays should be a time when we strengthen our relationships, but often it is the opposite.

How can we maintain some sanity in the midst of all the chaos?

1. Take a deep breath. Literally. Preferably while soaking in a hot bubble bath. We all need a few minutes to ourselves. A hot bath is relaxing, and we can enjoy the silence or even a few softly played Christmas songs on Pandora. Whether it's a hot bath, reading a good book, or some other activity you enjoy, be sure to take a little time each day to unwind. Now exhale.

2. Avoid the stores during peak times. The craziest time to shop each day is during the rush-hours right after work. Generally this means avoiding the stores between 4pm and 6pm. A great time to pick up your necessities is late at night after your kids go to bed. The stores will be less busy, and you won't be dragging toddlers through a crowd. Your spouse can stay home with the kids (they'll be sleeping anyway).

3. Make a gameplan for your family's holiday schedule well in advance. Having this in place will allow you to focus on the events that are the most important to your family. You can say no to the rest. That way you won't get overbooked and exhausted trying to keep up with it all. You don't have to agree to go caroling with friends on five different nights. Choose things that will work for you (and that you actually want to do!), write them on the calendar, and stick to the plan!

4. Give away your possessions. I don't mean give away everything you own. Rather, empty out some closets. Have the kids purge their toybox. Drop off a few boxes of stuff at Goodwill. Make room in your house for the new things you will inevitably get during this holiday season. It's a win-win because you will make space for new things, and someone else will get to enjoy and appreciate the things you no longer need.

5. Keep the main thing the main thing. There is a reason for the season. Stay focused on that. In the end, it's not about the parties, gifts, and never-ending delicious goodies. Focus on doing good things for others. Drop off a gift basket to a family in need. Send an anonymous gift card to someone. Shovel your neighbor's sidewalk, or do some volunteer work. It is extremely difficult to focus on our own selfish issues at the same time we are focused on helping someone else. Focusing outward helps us not to be focused inward. Don't forget what this season is really about.

If you are successful at those five steps, you will have a better chance of staying sane this holiday season. Nothing will ever be perfect, but you can enjoy this time rather than dread it.