Surviving Christmas

The Christmas season is supposed to be this joyous occasion for families to come together. Instead, it seems the commercialization of Christmas has simply made it one of the most stressful times of the year. There’s always that one toy that you want to get for your little one that’s nowhere to be found. Traffic seems to be exponentially worse, so many people seem to be on their absolute worst behavior and it almost seems like it’s turned into the anti-Christmas season.

If your children are anything like mine, then I’m sure there were some must-have items on their Christmas lists. In order to minimize the holiday season stress, I try to accumulate Christmas gifts throughout the year. To be fair, most of my gift gathering takes place from July through December. As someone who loathes crowds of people pushing me, I tend to do much of my shopping online. However, when a good deal is to be had, I will go to the store—just not from Black Friday until Christmas. In addition, I try to lose the mental block on buying new. Remember, an item is only new until you take it out of the package. It’s much more exciting for a child to be able to dig right into a “new” toy rather than wait another 20 minutes while you try to open it. So my first survival tip is to get your shopping done early and spread it out throughout the year. Of course it’s a little late for this one this year, but remember it for next year.

Families can cause a boat load of stress over the holidays. This one wants you to go here and that one wants you to go there. It’s almost like a game of tug-o-war. My solution is to decide early what you want to do for the holidays and make plans to do that. Once your plans have been set, don’t ask anyone, simply tell them “this is what we are doing.” If they want to join you, that’s great. If they don’t, then that’s fine too. Once you set boundaries, things will get easier. Of course, just like when you deal with your children, you have to stand your ground. Don’t let your mother or mother-in-law guilt you into doing something you were not planning to do. It sets you up for future holiday stress. It may be stressful the first year, but once the family realizes that this is how you are doing things, they will either have to go along with it, or miss out on seeing you and your children for the holidays. Either way, stress is minimized or eliminated.

Christmas is extremely overwhelming for kids and sure to cause some major meltdowns. If you think about it, it’s a recipe for disaster. Most children have a difficult time falling asleep on Christmas Eve because they’re so excited for Santa to come and bring gifts. Then, they wake up well before any human should have their eyes open in the morning, so you’re looking at maybe six hours of sleep if you’re lucky. By 8 a.m. your kids are probably ready for a nap (and so are you). My suggestion is to take that nap. Once your kids have played for a little while with their new toys, why not encourage them to curl up on the couch with you and relax. I love the idea of a cuddle with my kids on Christmas morning. We can snuggle up and fall asleep. That hour or two (or three if we’re extremely fortunate), may be all it takes to avoid a meltdown later in the day. At worst, it will make for a less intense meltdown in a better-rested child.

Remember, Christmas is a time for spending with family and celebrating our love for one another. If the stress gets to be too much, then you just need to take a step back and take everything in. Don’t get so caught up in the moments and going through the motions that you forget to enjoy what’s happening. Time will go by so fast, and before you know it the excitement of Christmas will be a distant memory. Watch your children’s faces, drink in their expressions, and thank God that you have these precious little people in your life.

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