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5 Ways to Predict and Prepare this Holiday Season

Each holiday season we reach out to our team to hear what they help parents predict and prepare for during this time.

Much of our guidance to help you sustain healthy relationships at this time focuses on understanding and setting reasonable expectations. Here are some quick tips we hope will help you shape the tone of your home this holiday season.

  1. Be mindful of emotional expectations

    Around the holidays, there tend to be constant messages about how we are supposed to feel: happy, joyful, connected with friends and family. Most of us experience these feelings in bits and pieces and we can enjoy it when we do. However, if we set ourselves and others up by suggesting that we are supposed to feel these emotions it can contribute to anxiety and can cause greater distress. Expect family members to feel a mix of emotions related to missing friends or the passing of a friend or relative. Accept both joy and sadness.

    With the range of potential emotionally triggering moments this time of year, allowing yourself and your family members the space to feel what you all increases the chance for that emotion to pass and to allow room for joy and cheer. You can even consider planning for the emotions by creating a time for everyone to express one thing that brings sadness during this season and one thing that brings hope.

  2. Organize your time

    There can often be concern with how unstructured time will be utilized and along with a worry of the potential lack of connection. Prepare for this by creating intentional structured time to connect as a family while also preserving time for everyone to recoup in their own space. Look for opportunities to connect, inviting the shared time without forcing it. Find what your child enjoys and offer to join them if they’ll have you (yes, even if this involves technology).

    Other examples include:

    • If you have an artist on your hands, consider making a project together that could even be a centerpiece for the table
    • Decorate trees, fireplace mantels, etc.
    • Go to the gym, for coffee, for a walk
    • Watch a holiday movie
    • Cook or bake something they would love, maybe something they can share with friends
    • Invite their friends over to bake with you
    • If they are into photography, ask if they’d like to take family photos
    • Invite to play cards, board games
    • Listen to their music

  3. Prepare for push back

    Changes in schedule, routine, and predictability can naturally bring up feelings of anxiety, frustration, and resistance which may result in an increase in power struggles or “push back”. Get ahead of the things that can be prepared in advance to reduce managing too many tasks in the moment. In this way you give yourself more capacity to respond to the push back calmly.

    For example:

    • Lay out clothes the night before (even just for yourself)
    • Leave extra time for travel/traffic (remember that your Aunt Ray’s irritation with you being late is not as important as preserving relationships with patience)
    • Need snacks or other supplies for a long trip? Pack these ahead or delegate this task
    • Write out the schedule if it is important to try and stick to it and make sure everyone sees it, whether that means posting it on the fridge or texting it to family members

  4. Celebrate the “good enough” by not “should-ing” on yourself and others

    Be ok with being a good enough parent and be ok with parenting a good enough child. Schedules will be off, people will be late, messes will be made. Accepting the good enough will help keep you present in the moment and able to make joyful memories.

    In our experience, holiday stress comes from all the things we think or have been told that we “SHOULD” or even “SHOULD NOT” be doing. We spread stress by having expectations of what others “SHOULD” or “SHOULD NOT” be doing. If a SHOULD gets in your way, stop… take a breath… and remind yourself to never ever “should” on yourself or others!

  5. Give gifts that fit your values

    Gift giving can be connecting, fun, chaotic, disappointing and consumeristic and it can feel like a freight train at times. We guide parents to be thoughtful about the approach of gift giving as well as gift buying. With the negative impact of technology overuse that is often a topic in parent coaching, and, around the holidays, we suggest that parents not buy the latest and greatest tech and gaming gifts that would deliver the message that they are supporting more time plugged in. Instead, consider gifts such as time together doing fun events that are outside of the ordinary.

    As you shape how you want gifting to look, consider the classic “secret santa” or “white elephant” approach. Another option to involve the whole family is to play a trivia game and, once someone gets 3 answers correct, they can open a gift. The bottom line is to find ways that fit your values to help gift giving be refueling for all!

Use these tips to predict and prepare, and have a more peaceful and fulfilling holiday season.

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Solutions Parenting Support, LLC is a nationally recognized parent support and transition program assisting parents and families with straightforward and compassionate skills based support prior to, during and after wilderness therapy and/or residential treatment. Solutions is a dynamic team of parent coaches who have had extensive careers as therapists in wilderness therapy or residential treatment before turning their talents towards coaching parents around the globe. The team is family system focused and are licensed professional therapists and/or social workers each with 15-30 years of experience working in wilderness therapy programs, varying levels of residential treatment programming, and transitional support.

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