ĎTis the season to be jolly, or so the song goes. Sometimes the seasonís stress overshadows its spirit. With children around, instead of focusing on how to survive the holidays, consider these 12 strategies to create meaningful interactions and lasting holiday memories:
1. Organize. Let your calendar be your friend. This crazy time of the year with games, concerts, plays, practices and parties can overwhelm us. I am a fan of the month-at-a-glance desk calendar (it lies open on the desk in our kitchen). On your calendar, record events and schedule family time now before your calendar gets too full.
2. Inquire. Ask your kids what they want to do during the holiday season and include their ideas on the family calendar.
3. Delegate. Show your kids who is on your gift list and enlist their help on gift selection and in making or shopping for gifts. Commission their gift wrapping skills. Ask for help with holiday menus, take them grocery shopping and give them a list of items to find; involve them in the cooking. Decide what items can be made together ahead of time and designate prep time on the calendar.
4. Service. Include kids in selecting a gift to donate to an angel tree or other charitable organization. Help them select items to donate to the food pantry, let them drop money into the Salvation Army bucket or serve a meal together at a homeless shelter. Such giving opportunities allow us to model the reason for the season.
5. Mindfulness. Challenge yourself and the kids in your life to unplug from technology. Leave work at work and close the tab on your to-do list. Be present in the moment with your children because when you look up, they will be grown up.
6. Support. Surround yourself with positive influences. Limit your time in toxic relationships. If you spend time with people who bring you down, interactions with others, including your children, will be negatively influenced. Could a phone call or card to the individual suffice in lieu of face-to-face contact? You may not be able to control the negativity, but you can limit it.
7. Predictability. Kids and grownups function better when they know what to expect. Communicate plans in advance.
8. Structure. Regular bed times and daily routines, even during holiday breaks, help with mood and behavior regulation. Poorly rested bodies tend to be crabby bodies. How fun is that?
9. Tradition. Whether selecting a tree, decorating the house, playing a game or watching a movie together, traditions are important and strengthen relationships. Be attuned to what your kids enjoy and incorporate their interests into the plans. Be open to creating new traditions as loved ones join and/or exit the family system.
10. Responsibility. Debt is like a toxic relationship that makes us cranky and thatís not good for the kids. Have a budget and donít overspend.
11. Rejuvenate. Take time to nurture yourself because you are important. Think of the flight attendant who instructs grownups on the plane to put oxygen masks on themselves first and then help the children. Donít feel guilty about scheduling that massage, manicure or lunch with a friend. Just make sure you add it to the calendar and put it into the budget.
12. Relax. Take time for meditation, yoga or exercise; donít skip it. Remember to breathe. Yes, schedule that too, if you must.