Handling the Holiday Hoopla

As the holidays are fast approaching, here are some personal tips on handling the holiday hoopla in your family.

When my children were young there was much anticipation with the approach of the holidays. After a few years of barreling through what seemed like a too busy schedule and a lot of stress and tension I began to think of ways to simplify and scale things back to a more manageable pace.

The following are the ideas that I discovered to work for my family. Maybe some will work for you.

1.Make a list of all the things that you’d like to do from parties to special places to visit and then cut it in half. Maybe that feels too extreme, but you get the idea. Less is More.

If you have young children the last thing you want to do is over schedule and end up having a joyless time of it. This goes for the cookie baking too. Keep it simple!

2.Consider the holidays as an opportunity for your child to learn to give. Too often the focus seems to be on what they will be getting instead of giving. Children’s anticipation of all the presents adds to their excitement but also their stress. The stress in turn makes it difficult for them to make good choices.

Include them in the gift selection process for significant family members or at least include them in wrapping the gift. Children can decorate plain white sheets of paper with paint, markers or crayons and will feel a sense of pride with this contribution.

Make a donation to the community food bank and invite your child to select canned goods and other staples at the grocery store. Place them in the donation box and then deliver it.

3.Let your holiday decorating be a ritual. I discovered that cleaning and decorating one small area of the house on a daily basis was much more manageable and fun than trying to get it all out at once. My kids looked forward to helping because it wasn’t an overwhelming amount of work to beautify one area. Children can add their own handmade decorations by making paper chains cut from colorful scrap book papers. Handmade holiday cards are also usually treasured by extended family.

4.Understand that children truly Believe the things adults tell them. The Santa mythology is charming to some but when it becomes a focus on naughty behavior it becomes punitive. The “Elf on the Shelf” only adds to the tension of feeling that there is ongoing surveillance on the premises. The tension children experience because of this focus can make behaving well very difficult. Consider the anticipation of the big day as well as the pressure to be Nice all the time. If you are four years old this is crazy making business. I recall a young child one time telling me, “I’m having a really hard time with this Christmas stuff.”

5.Create a family ritual. There were two in my family that we dearly loved and repeated annually. The first was playing a game of “I Spy” with a tiny elf that had once been part of an ornament. Someone would place the tiny figure in a visible place in one of the common rooms when no one was looking. It couldn’t be in or behind anything but needed to be openly visible if one was to gaze around the room. Because it was tiny it could be easily propped up on a picture frame, tucked in a bookcase, set in a wreath, the Christmas tree or perched on shelf. The person who found it would then declare the elf was found and then would be in charge of secretly placing it somewhere in the common area of the house again. This went on for more than two decades so it’s safe to guess my children really enjoyed it.

The second ritual was to do a neighborhood walk to see the houses and Christmas lights. This was especially fun if there was snow and we could use the sled on a snowy evening. We would return home to light our own tree and have hot chocolate.

At this darkest time of the year, Nature is calling us to slow down, savor the comforts of home and family and just take it easy. The commercialism of the holidays can add a frantic note and terrible distraction. It remains a matter of choice how we create the experiences that will end up being lasting memories for our children. Keeping it simple also keeps it manageable.

About The Author

Lois Olson

Founder of The Montessori Children's House Inc. Laramie, Wyoming Montessori Primary Certification 1973
Systematic Training for Effective Parenting facilitator certification
Thirty eight years of experience working with children ages 3-6
Twenty five years facilitating parenting groups
Ten years facilitating teacher training
B.A In Psychology

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