Parenting Tips: Managing Holiday Stress
MANAGING HOLIDAY STRESS
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. That’s what the song says, right? But some would say it’s also the most stressful time of the year. The prep, the parties, the shopping, the kids out of school, the memories of loved ones no longer with us, the confrontation with dear Uncle Herbert at the dinner table – all of this combines to make this holiday season physically and emotionally challenging, for parents and for children. So how do you stay sane and put the merry back in merry Christmas? Here are some tips:
- Lower your expectations. Televisions commercials will tell you that everything has to be Perfect, with a capital P. The tree lit with the perfect decorations. The table laid with 47 kinds of fondue. The children smiling and playing contentedly in matching pajamas. It’s too much pressure, and when we expect all those things, we are almost certainly disappointed. So give yourself a break. If all you can manage is a Charlie Brown tree with one red shiny ball and cookies made from slice-and-bake dough, that’s great! And stay off Pinterest and Facebook too – the desserts never look that good in real life, and no one’s life is that picture-perfect. Set realistic expectations so you are not setting yourself up for failure.
- Scale back. You don’t have to go to every Christmas party and holiday-in-lights event. Stand in front of the mirror and practice saying “No thank you” to the next invitation that comes your way. This is especially true when you have children adopted internationally. Lack of sleep, overstimulation and a chaotic schedule combine for the ideal recipe for melt-downs. So for your sake, and the sake of your children, cut back on the social engagements. Sometimes an evening at home is way more valuable than another white elephant gift swap.
- Refuse to engage. When your mother mentions that you are looking a little peaked. When your sister wants to rehash the Christmas of ’79 (she still thinks you got more presents than her). When your cousin wants to discuss President Trump’s tax bill. Just refuse to enter into the conversation. You can walk into another room, you can plaster a plastic smile on your face, or you can pretend you didn’t hear what the other person said – do whatever you need to do to keep yourself from getting sucked into a controversial topic.
- Make a budget and stick to it. Excessive spending in December can lead to credit card bills in January, prolonging the stress of the holidays. Decide what you will spend and don’t spend any more. This really goes for any “excess” – avoid overspending, overeating, overdrinking, and over-doing. They all come back to bite you in the end.
- Be mindful of grief and loneliness. For many people, the Christmas season can be peppered with sadness too. We remember our loved ones who have passed away or people with whom we’ve lost touch. We may feel guilty being sad when we are bombarded with messages of “joy” and “gladness.” But it’s important to acknowledge your losses and give yourself permission to be sad. Recognize that your child especially may struggle this time of year, as he thinks about his birth parents, his foster parents, or the friends he left behind in the orphanage. Help him to give voice to his feelings and encourage him to do something meaningful, like hang a special ornament on the tree or wrap a small present in honor of someone he has lost.
- Remember the reason for the season (Okay, I know that is corny and cliché, but it is also true). “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, saying, ‘Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth, peace and goodwill toward men.’ That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” Linus got that right. Beyond all the glitz and noise, this is the season to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, who humbled himself to be born a helpless babe, who died for the forgiveness of our sins so we can enjoy eternal life in Heaven. This is the message we must preach to ourselves everyday. It helps us refocus our priorities and focus on what’s important, to praise Him and offer Him the gift of our worship. Everything else pales in comparison. So keep Him first and fight back against the hype.
I wish you all a peace-filled and grace-filled Holy-day. Happy birthday Jesus!
This article was written by Diane Hood, Clinical Supervisor with America World Adoption, and the Director of Social Services in our Georgia office. Diane has more than 20 years experience in the adoption field and she is a parent by birth and by adoption.
ACT (Adoption Coaching and Training) is a ministry of America World Adoption designed to support families through training, support groups, and individualized coaching. Explore ACT services on our website here, and reach out to us today for a free consultation to make a plan to meet your needs.