It is already mid-December and here we are, in the middle of the frenziness this time of the year entails. It is indeed a lovely time, but it can also be very stressful. In fact, December has been named the “National Stress-Free Family Holidays Month” in order to increase awareness of the problems that the holiday season can create. Combine seasonal family commitments, traveling, shopping, baking and hosting with everyday responsibilities like children, house and work and it is no wonder many of us become overwhelmed.
And the holidays aren't just stressful for us, they can actually be stressful for children too. All the school, community and family events mean that everybody is busier, so schedules are changed and sleep is disrupted. Kids are overstimulated, excitement reaches new heights and they might even become anxious about being put in the naughty list if they are not good enough.
But do not worry, we have the solution for the perfect stress-free holiday: forget perfection! Aiming for a perfect holiday is like trying to control the weather, pointless. Our kids don’t need a magazine-worthy holiday, they need us happy, in a good mood, living the spirit of the season and spreading love and good cheer. We are real parents with real children and we get real holidays, complete with messy kitchen, tired kids and the odd tantrum. That is the beauty of real life, after all.
So in order to make the most of this lovely time, we have decided to put together this Basic Stress-Free Holiday Manifesto. We are definitely going to try and follow it!
1- Remember the reason for the season
This is the time to get reconnected and to spend quality time together, as well as an opportunity for spiritual reflection. The holiday season allows us to spend precious time with family and friends, and recall former joys of past years when we were just a participant, not the responsible adult in charge.
Family connection will become our priority, not only shopping or events. Let's stop and enjoy the moment, instead of getting too caught up in our long to-do list, let’s pay attention to the wonderful sights, sounds, and smells around us. It is a magical time, we do not want to miss out!
2- Have reasonable expectations.
We all love to look at the perfect family holidays we see displayed in Hello! or People magazines, but we need to remember that we only see the final, edited result. So let’s try to manage our expectations and avoid holiday perfectionism as this most often will lead to certain disappointment… with the added value that if everything ends up being actually perfect it will be even more special!
We will find ways to laugh at what will inevitably go wrong, pat ourselves on the back and congratulate each other on a job well done, not just in December, but all year long.
3- Make holiday traditions our own
Most families have holiday traditions, some simple and others quite elaborate. Continuing family traditions links us to the past, to the carefree days of our childhood when Santa Claus was real and Christmas morning was the most exciting day of the year. But let’s make sure that these beloved traditions work today for our family and bring us joy, and let’s not be afraid to change them or to create new ones. Sometimes just small adjustments might make our life easier, as we can adapt those cherished traditions to our actual situation.
Also, in our increasingly globalized life where a growing number of families include different nationalities and cultures and extend across several countries, it is always a good idea to incorporate and blend all those elements.
4- Relax, chill, take it easy
Gifts to be bought and wrapped, greeting cards to be written and posted, decorations to be unboxed and hung, food to be prepared and served, homes to be cleaned for guests, suitcases to be packed, and the list goes on. The excitement of the season and the anticipation of the holiday will inspire us to get things done, usually by giving up leisure time and sleep. Let´s make sure we schedule some downtime here and there to save our sanity, avoid a potential meltdown and enjoy the company of our loved ones.
5- Accept Santa’s Little Helpers’ help
Kids love pottering around in the kitchen. Obviously they will not be able to prepare the whole meal, but they can definitely help with age appropriate tasks. Let’s put them down to rinsing, cutting, stirring and mixing and enjoy some nice family time on top of the free sous-chef assistance. We can ask them to bake cookies and use them as edible presents for family and friends, or just have a good time eating them together. Our children can also be a great resource for setting up the festive table with some guidance, and of course they can participate in the washing up after cooking.
The same applies to decorating the house. Kids can be exceptionally creative, and holiday crafts are the perfect cold weather activity to keep the little ones entertained as they will be more than happy to create homemade decorations, each more treasured as the years fly by. The appearance of an ornament is less important than its meaning or the memories associated with it, so let’s appreciate the effort they put into making them.
Older kids can also help with writing the addresses on the envelopes of the greeting cards, do some basic grocery shopping, wrap presents, be on wardrobe duty when greeting guests… There is no need for us to do everything when we can take advantage of our very own little elves!
So, this year, let’s delight in a stress-free and memorable celebration time, let’s be thankful for everything good in our life, let’s relax and love the holiday season for what its is, a time to enjoy. Happy holidays from your friends at Amaia Kids!