How To Simplify Your Family’s Holiday Season

The holidays are always a stressful time of year for me. My parents divorced when I was 12 and my dad remarried when I was 15. Christmas not only stretches old wounds, but has also grown more complicated as I have grown older and added both my birth family and my husband’s family to the equation. Through the years I have come to learn what I need as well as what my families need from me during the holidays. Here are some things I’ve learned that have helped me simplify my holiday season and I hope that they will help you too.

Accept that I’m not going to be able to see everyone: With four families, six siblings, and a step-son it has become fundamental to my peace to not try to see everyone for the winter holidays. Thankfully, my families understand that, so they never make me feel obliged to change my plans.The factors that go into who I choose to spend the holidays with change year by year. When my husband and I first married, it was important to me that I spend Christmas with his family, especially his son. However, this year I’m choosing to spend it with my dad and step-family because my father is getting older (and Christmas is his favorite time of year) and both of my step-siblings will also be in town, so I’ll get to spend time with them as well. I usually share a meal with my mother before or after Christmas so that i’m not trying to make everything happen in one day. Ultimately, who I end up with on the holidays depends on where I can afford to go, which family members will be where, who I spent last year’s holidays with, and where I am most comfortable.

Divide and conquer: I know this one will come across as strange to a lot of people, but my husband and I actually do really well spending holidays apart. Since his family is closer than mine his visit will just be for an afternoon. This leaves me free to make the drive to my families and stay several days without having to worry about our apartment or my dog because I know Nick will be home to look after everything. This takes a lot of the stress of traveling off of me and keeps me from having to rush my trip. It also means that both of our families get to see us, so we aren’t leaving anyone out and we get to bring home food from two different places 😀 Nick and I generally prefer to celebrate one another at different times from the holidays. We don’t have our own celebrations for Christmas or Thanksgiving and prefer to create our own special times throughout the year regardless of the day. We celebrate the holidays for our families and being separate doesn’t bother us as long as our families are happy. After we’ve loved on them, we come back together and start planning for our own next adventure as a couple.

Write letters: I don’t just mean sending people Christmas cards with pics of you and your children or pets. I mean writing real, heartfelt letters. When I know I’m not going to be able to see my whole family I try to put special effort into loving on the ones who I won’t physically be around. I do this with my friends as well. It will ease the distance and let them know that you aren’t neglecting them just because you aren’t coming to see them.

Teamwork makes the dreamwork: Ask for help. Really, it’s okay, I promise. Whether it’s seeking backup because a family member makes you uncomfortable or asking your cousin to hold your toddler or asking your significant other to drive because you are tired, whatever it is, ask. The holidays can be a physical and emotional workload, everyone knows it, but we seem to have trouble talking about it. The more honest we are with one another and the more we communicate our needs the more we can help each other and have a truly beautiful Christmas.

Breathe and create space: The holidays are hard for a lot of people. Planning trips and visits and dinners is a hassle, especially with children. Remember to pay attention to what you as an individual need to not just maintain your peace, but actually enjoy the time of year reserved for family and friend love. Whether it’s sending the kids to bed early so you can enjoy a glass of wine or listening to an audiobook or your favorite music on the drive, go out of your way to do something specifically for you. And don’t forget to rest (you are not obligated to do everything), drink lots of water, and breathe.

Remember, the holidays are supposed to be fun. You are not obligated to buy the most expensive gift or make the most delicious dish or have the most well-behaved children. You are simply there to love on your family and be loved by them. What are you some ways that you deal with holiday stress? Have you come up with your own little tricks and practices to make the holidays simpler? We would love to hear them in the comments section. Happy holidays!

About the Author

Clara is a lifelong writer who recently became stepmom to an energetic seven-year-old boy. She has a BA in journalism from the University of Alabama and has written on a variety of subjects including social issues, politics, and music. A yoga practitioner and foodie with a deep passion for health and wellness, she seeks to use her education and experience to help individuals create better lives for themselves and their children. Clara is currently living in Atlanta with her husband and her 80lb ridgeback mix. Clara is a member of the PedSafe Team


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