Help, It's Almost Christmas!

holidays parenting personal growth relationships values Dec 18, 2023

If you are like most people, the month of December typically ushers in a dramatic increase in activity, responsibilities, and irrational expectations. If you are able to maintain a positive and realistic perspective during this busy time of year you are much more likely to experience a very special time of connection, celebration, and joy. To help you with this task, my good friend and co-worker, Liz Bailey, offers some timeless truths for getting the most out of the holiday season.

Live, Work and Relate Well!

Dr. Todd

Some of my neighbors have had their Christmas lights up since before Thanksgiving. I am not sure how I feel about that. I waffle between being joyful that the holidays bring our family together and overwhelmed at the thought of how much time, money and effort it takes to make all that celebration work smoothly. And this mix of happiness and angst happens every single year when December rolls in like an avalanche!

Many of us need to be reminded of what we know deep down in our hearts because the holidays have a way of drowning out the still, small voice of truth and common sense. Let’s review:

It’s okay to break the cycle of “one-upping” each other when shopping for gifts. Too many people feel pressured to compete in a contest of Who Gave the Best Gift. Grandparents and divorced parents are often the ones most easily caught in the “competitive giving” trap, but we are all susceptible. But trust me on this: Your relationship with your children and grandchildren is not dependent on how tall the stack of presents grows or how much money you spend. Please remember that children are sensitive to the messages we send with our actions, and deluging them with a mountain of material things will teach them that love has a price tag, which only cheapens genuine love. Teach them instead that the holidays are an opportunity to love one another – not out-do one another.

Hardly anybody has a “perfect” holiday. When I was hosting Thanksgiving dinners every year, it was a regular occurrence that something didn’t go as planned. At least one year I burned the rolls. A few times when I was putting away leftovers I found something in the refrigerator I had forgotten to serve. I have never had the perfect centerpiece. But the amazing thing is that we all still had a great time! Prioritize people over perfection, and you can actually enjoy the festivities with your family and friends. It’s also a fact of life that adult children sometimes have to divide their time, some loved ones may have to work on the holiday or someone important can’t or won’t participate for some reason. While this can be disappointing, try to enjoy what you do have instead of focusing on the negative.

Holidays aren’t a magic bullet to fix problem relationships but they are an opportunity to forgive and reconnect. It’s sad to hear of families who can’t all be together because someone refuses to let go of their animosity. Since holidays sometimes add to stress, bad relations can be even more strained. But if you are stubbornly refusing to attend holiday because of a spat, please consider taking advantage of this special season to set aside grudges and forgive. Remember the Reason for the Season was God initiating reconciliation with people. Can we do less?  It is understandably a different situation if it’s not safe to be with another family member, and I absolutely don’t recommend you subject yourself to abuse, but it’s a great time of year to put the past behind you!

It’s important to take care of yourself. This includes making a list and setting a budget so you don’t spend more than you can afford. It may include scheduling ahead for shopping and socializing so you can make the best use of your time – and scheduling some “days off” for rest can be a gift you give yourself. Enjoy holiday treats and spirits in moderation in order to feel well enough to enjoy your celebrations. Remember, you are only human and may have to say “no” to some invitations in order to do the most important things. The flip side of this principle is to be understanding if someone must say “no” to you. Give others the same grace you give yourself.

Focus on why we celebrate this special time of year. For Christians, this is a time to remember that God brought His own Son into the world to offer the opportunity for salvation to those who believe in Him. But even if you’re not sure about the Christian faith, focusing on peace, love and joy can be the reprieve you need from the stresses of life on earth. I know that you have suffered hardships and pain at times, and you have probably felt scared, confused and angry at times. But when you change your perspective from the negative (what’s wrong) to the positive (what you’re thankful for and how you can bring joy to others) it’s refreshing to your soul.

If you’re feeling like December is already steamrolling over you, I hope you can stop and think about what’s overwhelming you and bring it under control through focusing on these common-sense truths.

We wish you a genuinely Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season!


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