As you anticipate the next several weeks approaching Christmas, are you feeling excited or do you have a gnawing sense of dread? For most of us, this season can bring on additional stress—gifts to buy, gatherings to attend, family visits to prepare for. As parents we can add to our plate the burden of making this the best Christmas ever for our kids. As we see other families planning activities and buying things for their kids, we can begin to view Christmas like a runner in a marathon needing to prepare for the big race. The competition is on!

What if you could do it differently this year? What if you could not only get through the holidays, but enjoy them? What if you unplugged from all the expectations of others and really thought about what is meaningful to you and to your family? Is it truly that important to keep up with the neighbors or friends?

Here are a few suggestions that could help you ward off the Grinch and protect your experience of Christmas from the meaningless whirlwind of activity it often becomes:

  1. Simplify.
    Think back on your most meaningful Christmas. Did it have anything to do with gifts or parties? What our children enjoyed the most was our time—just spending unstructured time playing and laughing, making cookies, hanging out. You might think about intentionally taking the focus off gift giving. Less is more. If your kids have gotten used to a lot of gift opening on Christmas morning, you may want to let them know in advance that it will be different this year. Perhaps you could gather gifts for less fortunate people or serve at a shelter or mission. You might also give more careful thought to the number of commitments you make to social gatherings. Limiting engagements is a great way to protect your down time as a family. Ask yourself, what are the three most important things you would like to experience during this time? Allow these to guide your decisions through the holidays.
  1. Unify.
    Having a daily de-stressing conversation with your spouse is a great way to increase your ability to cope with all the extra responsibilities and hoopla that come with the holidays. Taking time each night to check in on what was the worst and best parts of each other’s day, can help you feel “we’re in this together.” This is not a time to offer advice or criticize. It is a time to purely listen to one another allowing each of you to debrief your day. Take each other’s side. Before you end, you might ask the other if there is anything they might need from you.
  1. Fortify.
    Taking time to have a daily devotion can help you regain a perspective on how you want to live that day. Slowing down and allowing God to refresh you with His presence and gain a sense of His purposes for you can help you realign with what is truly important and withstand the pulls of what is not.

    Matthew 11:28 says, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” Enjoy His rest before you launch into your day and see how your load and your stress become lighter.

Please comment and let us know how you distress during the holidays!