As much as I personally love the December holidays, they tend to be super stressful for lots of families. With the stress, the connections that we’re craving don’t happen as easily or as often. . . and our holidays may feel quite blue.

When I look at the stressed and harried moms, dads, and children, I see a common cause:

Excess.

Besides the overindulgence in sugar during the holidays, children and adults tend to have:

  • Too much stimulation
  • Too many expectations
  • Too much busyness

Rather than running away from it all each season (though this can be an effective strategy), I’d like to offer two ways you can eliminate a bit of the excess from your holidays so you can cultivate those connections that warm your heart.

Schedule in slow down time every day and every week. Pretend you’re snowed in and can’t go anywhere. Unplug the electronics and re-enact life before the internet. Set aside 15-30 minutes each day where the focus is on being, togetherness, and less sensory stimulation. Some of our family’s favorite daily slowtime includes reading together, telling stories (either made up or from real life), doing art, simple cooking, going for walks in the neighborhood, snuggling, and dancing. In addition to these daily breaks, setting aside a full or partial day as a “sabbath” of sorts is helpful. It’s amazing how relaxing it can feel when you safeguard part of each week as sacred family time when the outside world doesn’t control your calendar or agenda.

Extend extra patience and forgiveness to each other. The demands of the holidays impact parents and children alike. The weight of these expectations — of all the things we “have to” get done, how we “should” behave, and what others are counting on us for — means that instead of being at our best, we can end up feeling (and behaving) at our worst. So rather than getting irritated at each other and feeling resentful when our angels act devilish, we can make things easier by calling on our compassion. This means forgiving ourselves for buying cookies to bring to the school party instead of baking homemade treats. It also includes empathizing with our children who keep talking about the presents they want or who gripe about having to share Christmas day with relatives they don’t know. “I understand,” “it’s okay,” “it’s not easy being a kid/grown up,” and “how about a ‘do-over’” are all phrases that can soothe stressed souls when offered with love and gentleness.

Yes, there are more than two ideas to de-stress the holidays and help you and your family connect. . . but if I added to this list I’d simply be adding to the excess. Experiment with these two ideas and see if your holidays feel a little calmer and a little more cheerful.

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