Stress-Free Holidays Part 1

This week I’ll share some mindset tools to make this holiday season one of less stress and more success.


#1: Forced togetherness doesn’t create harmony.


“Is it okay if the whole family isn’t together?” This was the gate agent’s question as we attempted to get on a different flight after Thanksgiving.


Obviously, your answer could depend on a number of factors. How old are the kids? How experienced is everyone with flying? Could I see who we’d all potentially be sitting next to, and get back with you? (good luck on that one).


For a number of families, these questions wouldn’t matter. The answer would be no. Unequivocally…no. Some parents cannot seem to tolerate the idea of the family doing anything if it’s not the whole family together. Two siblings can’t go to the mall without taking the third one. Mom can’t do something with just one child–that’d be unfair. If one person is left out of anything, then that’s gonna ruin everything.


These are not the attitudes of a healthy family. Equal opportunity is a great principle, to be sure, but such balance can be pursued over time; it doesn’t always have to be equal right this minute.


Some good practices:


  1. Build in some individual choice whenever you can.Does everyone have to go to the same movie on Christmas Day? What if you had two choices, at around the same time, and people could choose? (If everyone then chooses the same one, that’s chosen togetherness, not forced.)
  1. Make a list of all the activities you’re hoping for everyone to participate in, then discuss it openly with another adult.Does the list seem reasonable? Which are the MOST important? Which ones can you relax on? For those, do number one above.
  1. Choose one thing, at least, you will do by yourself this year.Maybe it’s a shopping excursion, or sitting down to watch a holiday movie you absolutely adore, or visiting a holiday landmark. I know you want to share this kind of thing with your loved ones, but so often our need for another person to enjoy something as much as we do gets in the way of our own experience. I know this sounds too self-focused, but the more you can set aside an experience just for you, the more you can be present (and pleasant) when you’re all together. (More on that tomorrow).


Healthy families, over time, find a balance between separateness and togetherness, between individuality and community. Unhealthy families either care too little about who’s with whom, or rigidly insist that it’s either all the family or nothing.


Peace Begins with a Pause,


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