Tag: Christmas

3 Tips for Parenting in December Without Losing Your Ho! Ho! Ho!

It happens every year.  The sweet mother of two young children sat in my office, slouched over, and shared how she dreads December.  “I take on too much,” she sighed.  Then she gets overloaded, becomes irritable with her kids and ends up hating the stress of December.  All that effort for the sake of her family having good holiday memories and she ends up depleted and grumpy.  The impossibly long list of thoughtful, creative things things she expects herself to do overwhelms her.  We all know she’s not alone.

She walked out of her parent coaching session with three assignments:

I. FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU CARE ABOUT

  1. Make a list of every single task you expect yourself to do in December.  Does that mean one task is getting the tree, another is putting on the lights, and another is decorating it?  Yup.
  2. Put them in order by date due.
  3. Circle the ones you LOVE to do.  These are ones that make you happy and have meaning.
  4. Circle the ones you HATE to do.  The ones that make you grumpy when you are doing them.
  5. If you have a significant other, have them do the same thing on the same list.
  6. For the tasks on the “HATE” list, figure out a way to dump the item.  Or at least read Assignment #2 for ways to survive them.
  7. For the ones in the middle, decide if there are ways to simplify or delegate.  For example, I make hot fudge sauce for my neighbors, teachers and relatives. Some years, they were decorated with painstakingly fancy labels. Some years, all I could do was make the fudge and slap on a computer-printed label.  But if it preserved a little of my sanity and left me a little more able to be sweet to my children, it was worth it.  Simplifying can be wonderful.

II. SET REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS

Many of us value holiday traditions and want our kids to grow up with good memories.  But hear me when I tell you this: you don’t have to do every tradition every year in order for your kids to have great memories.  My friend grew up with a memory of her mom doing a cookie exchange.  She remembered that every year, she came home to a group of women in the kitchen who had baked and exchanged dozens and dozens of cookies.  My friend took it upon herself to continue the tradition whether she felt like it or not. It wasn’t until her kids were teens when she friend learned that her mom had only done that a few times ever. Nowhere close to every year.  She did it on the years that it suited.

So as you think about your traditions and how they stress you, what if you consider rotating them?

If it’s going to cause stress, what if you give yourself permission to pass on it for a year?  You don’t have to dump it forever; you can decide year by year.  Sometimes we have to pick:  tradition or calm state of mind.  A grumpy, stressed out mommy is generally NOT what our kids need, so why do we keep setting ourselves up to feel overwhelmed?

III. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX TO MAKE YOUR WORK FUN!

Ok, truth is, there are some things we really want to do and we want to be happy about but it ends up feeling like a chore. To that, I say: think outside the box to find a way to make it enjoyable.

Have a mountain of gifts to wrap?

What if you do it with a friend?  My girlfriend and I used to take turns hauling our stuff to each other’s house to wrap together while we listened to Christmas music and chatted.  It was highly productive AND fun.

Signing Christmas cards or online shopping?

Another girlfriend lights candles, pours herself something good to drink, turns on good music, and tells herself that it’s a treat to sit and think about the people she loves as she shops and/or signs cards. Works for her.

How about having a friend or family member over to bake while your kids play with theirs?

My girlfriend and I have done this for years: the kids played, we baked, and everyone was happy.

While it may well feel like Christmas has become this huge, commercialized machine of expectations, we do have a choice about how we choose to participate. You have a vote in this.

It’s ok to say NO to being overwhelmed so that you can YES to showing up for your kids and yourself.

 

Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2016 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

Holiday Traditions: Words of Wisdom

An experienced mother shares what she wishes she would have known about holiday traditions when her kids were young

When my sons were little, I was so excited to live out my fantasies of being a great mommy who created Norman Rockwell-ish holidays. Since the time I was old enough to play with Barbies, I dreamt of happily baking Christmas cookies while holiday music filled the air and my content happy children played joyfully at my feet. Insert sound of needle screeching across an old-fashioned record here. The reality had more to do with young children who wished their mommy who was giving them attention than anything that had to do with the mixing bowl on the counter far above their heads. Insert sound of sibling bickering and fussing little boys.

Fast forward to a conversation several un-Rockwell-ish cookie-baking years later.

My friend Jana’ told me about  memories of coming home to a table full of cookies after school when her mother held a big cookie exchange with other moms.  I wondered if I was depriving my children and should add yet another  tradition to my long list of “must-do’s” for the month of December.

A while later, Jana’ told me she had reminisced with her mother about that wonderful cookie tradition. Her mom, however, was puzzled. She insisted that she only did that a couple of times in Jana’s life. Jana’ was astounded because in her mind, it was firmly planted as a wonderful, ongoing tradition.

Our “a-ha” from this revelation? We don’t have to do something every single year in order for it to be a special memory for our children. What if we limited ourselves to the traditions that we could do with a happy heart on any given year? What if the important part of the season was being fully present with our children instead of the insane checklist of obligatory things to do? Now that my kids are teens, I feel sad watching moms stress over getting things done instead of being in balance and present for their kids. Have I mastered this? Not even close. But have I had more moments of joy and sanity than I used to during the holidays? Yup.

Here’s something to try if you want to keep your traditions AND your sense of humor and sanity:

  1. List all the traditions on your list for this year.
  2. Put an “x” next to the ones you don’t really FEEL like doing but think you should.
  3. Circle the ones that you ENJOY and really WANT to do.
  4. Look at the “x list” and see if you can bear to cross some of them off just for this year. Think about what you might be able to do that would bring you joy instead of doing those things.
  5. For the items that remain on your list, ask yourself how you can make them more fun.

Here are some ways I’ve found to make traditions “fun” instead of “obligatory”:

  1. Bake cookies with a girlfriend while all your kids play together.
  2. Stuff and stamp cards with a friend while the kids play.
  3. Wrap gifts with a friend. When our kids were at preschool or elementary school, my friend Debbie and I used to haul our gifts and wrap and ribbon to one or the other’s house and wrap till we dropped. We got a lot done, we had fun, and we got to connect with each other. It was worth all the hauling!
  4. One of my friends has a tradition of signing cards only when she has turned on holiday music and lights, lit candles and has a glass of eggnog setting next to her.
  5. Deliver jars of homemade hot fudge to neighbors. My boys and I only do it on the years when I feel inspired, but when we do, the kids get to practice neighborliness and we get to live in a warmer, more friendly neighborhood.

This December, I wish for you the freedom that comes from choosing which traditions you keep alive and which ones you take a break from in order to give your kids a parent who is in balance enough to truly cherish them.

With love and laughter,

Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

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