Cooler weather. Beautiful colors. Fall festivals. Pumpkin spice lattes. Thanksgiving. Football. And Christmas! Yes, it’s that time of year again.
For many, it’s wonderful! For others, not so much. Let’s be honest, the holidays—uh um, the chaos—can bring out the best—and the worst—in each of us.
If you’re like Christi and I, we discuss the holidays each year, praying and thinking through how we can make the most of it as a family. Having little kiddos makes it a bit more chaotic for us, but it makes it a lot more precious too.
As you discuss plans for the upcoming holidays, consider these eight tips. Perhaps even one of them can help you—and your family—enjoy this holiday season more.
E.N.J.O.Y.I.N.G the Holidays
Eliminate the Chaos. Despite what everybody else is doing, choose to simplify your life this holiday season. If shopping is a major stressor for you, consider doing it online this year. We personally use Amazon Prime for free shipping, no crowds, less headaches, and more meaningful family time together.
Don’t waste your time standing in long lines trying to wrangle your kids to behave when everything in you feels like misbehaving in this very moment yourself.
And if you’re looking for a great deal, wait until after Christmas to do some of your shopping. There’s no better way to save time and money than by putting your family first before Christmas, and shopping after it. You don’t have to follow the status quo.
NO! The most successful people in life have learned the art of saying “no.” Set family boundaries this year by not packing your schedule full of holiday events, or worse yet, events you’re in charge of.
Depending on the relational condition of your family, there may be functions this year you need to say “no” to for the benefit of your own well-being and that of your immediate family. If there are alcoholic or verbally and emotionally abusive people in your family, it may do you—and your kids—well to avoid them.
Juggle your Relationships Ahead of Time. If you foresee potential conflict with family members during upcoming holiday functions, and are still choosing to go, be proactive to engage those family members ahead of time. Call or visit them. Find out what is going on in their lives. Build trust with your family in advance so it’s less awkward when everybody is together.
Only Expect What’s Given. The greatest predictor of future behavior is past behavior. If you and your dad have a rocky past and have not spoken in six months, don’t expect all wounds to be healed on Christmas morning. Also, if your family is in turmoil, don’t expect to be the “fixer” over the holidays. Unmet expectations lead to the biggest disappointments. Set realistic expectations and you won’t be let down.
You. Take time for you this holiday season. Carve out moments each day to pray, meditate, and soak in the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of the season and the reason for it. Be creative with this time and combine it with exercise, reading, or a hot bath.
If you have little kids like us, and this seems like a pipe dream (because trust me, it does) choose to spend less money this year on others and find a sitter for a few holiday date nights in the month of December.
Go to a Christmas parade. Drink peppermint lattes. And by all means don’t feel guilty for spending the money on yourself. As young parents, you sacrifice all year long and deserve the memories.
Invite Others to Help You. If you are the primary cook, host, or family coordinator of holiday festivities, invite your spouse, kids, extended family, or friends to help you pick up items at the grocery store, decorate, and even cook. Delegate responsibilities to your children and help them learn new skills. If cooking is too much, consider a potluck this year. This is a great opportunity to turn mundane and stressful tasks into life-giving family memories.
Nightly Family Devotions. There is no better time to bring your immediate family together to learn about Jesus than the Christmas season. Perhaps you can start on Thanksgiving, go through Christmas, and as a family discuss each night one blessing you’re grateful for in your life. We followed the example of my wife’s family by starting an Ebenezer, a monument of stones in front of the fireplace. Each stone has written on it an answered prayer from God in our family. It is a great conversation piece.
Give Back. There is no better season to give of your time and money than during the holidays. Some of our greatest holiday memories were when we gave to and visited families in need. Volunteering at your local homeless shelters, singing carols at nursing homes, or helping neighbors you know can be more joyful for you than those you are blessing.
And more than anything else, as parents, start traditions in your family you’ll want your kids to do with their own. For there’s no better way—or season—to teach our kids to love God and love others than to model for them now.
Here’s to E.N.J.O.Y.I.N.G. your holiday season!
Joshua Straub, Ph.D. is an advocate for families and parenting in the 21st century. He loves coming alongside families to provide encouragement, support and practical counsel. Josh loves combining scientific research with biblical wisdom to provide the best-of-all-worlds perspective on raising stellar kids, having an awesome marriage and enjoying life while doing it. You can read more of the boring professional stuff about Josh and his books here, if you’re interested. Together with his favorite writing partner and wife, Christi, Josh has fun parenting their son Landon and daughter Kennedy. For more encouragement and ideas on marriage and parenting in the 21st century you can join Josh and a growing tribe of awesome families at www.joshuastraub.com and follow him on Twitter @joshuastraub or Facebook.