How To Navigate The Holidays As A Family
The end of the year is fast approaching, and you know what that means...
Snow is falling, and wood is burning in the fireplace - you are cuddled up on your sofa with a cup of hot chocolate and a fuzzy blanket.
Unless of course, you live in Florida, South Florida to be exact.
But hey, palm trees wrapped in twinkly lights are still pretty festive if you ask me!
Regardless of whether it’s warm, cool, or cold where you are the month of December means it’s time for the holidays. YAYYY! Right?
For the most part, the holidays are arguably one of the best times of the year.
We are in the season where “being thankful” occurs more often than not, and it gives us a good reason to spend time with family.
Especially since it’s easier-ish to get off work around the holidays than the rest of the year.
But like with almost everything in life, even spending the holidays with your family can feel like a blessing and a curse. So, I want to help guide you through the holidays with your family and coming out of the other side with most (if not all) of your mental health intact.
SEPARATED / DIVORCED FAMILIES
Families come in all different shapes and sizes.
The first kind of family I want to talk about is the families who are dealing with a separation or a divorce this holiday season – especially with kids involved.
If this is your first holiday season as a separated/divorced family, more than likely things are more stressful than in previous years. You might be slightly freaking out inside on how to navigate this holiday without feeling like you have no clue what you are doing.
If you are a parent and you fall into this category, here are some things that might help get you through this time of year.
KNOW YOUR LIMITS. DOING THE BEST YOU CAN EVEN IF IT DOESN’T FEEL LIKE MUCH IS THE BEST.
Don’t try to bite off more than you can chew. It’s okay if you can’t do absolutely everything. As a matter of fact, it’s probably better if you don’t do everything.
If you don’t take care of yourself and your own needs, then how can you possibly take care of other people?
BE PREPARED TO ANSWER THE TOUGH QUESTIONS AND/OR NAVIGATE TOUGH STATEMENTS.
“Why do we have to do this? This isn’t the way mom does things.”
“Why isn’t dad here? Why aren’t we doing this together as a family.”
“This is stupid! I just want things the way they were.”
These are just some examples of things you might hear your kids say.
Kids are smarter and more perceptive than you might think.
Try to keep an open line of communication between you and your kids and let them know that even though things might be different, your love for them is the same.
MAKE NEW TRADITIONS.
This one might be easier said than done seeing as how traditions usually come about organically. However, this is the perfect time to make new traditions as a family even if the family isn’t just one single unit anymore.
Examples of this could be letting your kids decorate however their imagination allows them – especially if they have never had input before. Or do something non-traditional like ordering pizza or going out to eat instead of cooking a feast.
USE THIS TIME TO BOND WITH YOUR CHILD(REN) IN A DIFFERENT WAY THAN YOU HAVE IN THE PAST.
Being a family going through a separation or divorce can actually give you a reason to get more one-on-one time with your kids.
Use this time to really connect and understand your kids in a way that you couldn’t have done previously with your partner around.
If you are separated/divorced and your partner has the kid(s) so you have time by yourself. Take advantage on getting reacquainted with who you are and your own wants/needs.
SINGLE PARENT FAMILIES
Life as a parent can be hard… life as a single parent can sometimes feel near impossible.
Regardless of the reason behind being a single parent, some common emotions you might experience are guilt, anxiety, and pressure.
UNDERSTAND THAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Even if it feels like it, you are not truly alone. You have your children, your friends, coworkers, extended family, social media family, etc. You have yourself, and you are pretty awesome.
Think about all the things you have been through and how you have always gotten through it.
You can definitely get through this.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE BOTH PARENTS.
There can be this overwhelming urge to be both parents to make up for the lack of the other.
You are enough.
Let me say that again: YOU ARE ENOUGH.
Try not to get so caught up in “making up” for what isn’t there when you being there, being present, is really all that matters.
Mindfulness can play a crucial role in understanding if you are projecting your own worries and concerns onto your kids are if they are truly being affected.
Kids are resilient just like you if not more so.
STEP OR IN-LAW FAMILIES
Being a part of a step-family or dealing with in-laws can be tricky.
A good portion of this can be contributed to preconceived notions or expectations of what step-families or in-laws are like.
IF YOU ARE THE “STEP” IN A STEP-FAMILY, MAKE SURE THE KIDS KNOW YOU AREN’T TRYING TO REPLACE ANYONE.
Explain to your kids that just because you are their step-mom or step-dad, you aren’t trying to replace anyone.
DON’T EXPECT EVERYONE TO GET ALONG ALL THE TIME.
If everyone got along all the time, especially during the holidays, well that would just be fantastic. Unfortunately, this isn’t a movie on the Hallmark channel.
If there seems to be an issue with your kids getting along – or your spouse getting along with your parents – don’t try to make them get along. That could actually make things worse.
Now when I say “make them get along” I mean in a way that is problematic like telling your kids if they don’t get along they will get grounded.
Instead, try picking an activity the whole family can enjoy and be involved in participating. You might be surprised at the positive effect that can have on bonding as a whole.
NO FAMILY IS PERFECT.
The holidays can already be a stressful event, so be prepared that the stress might roll over into how the family reacts together.
Also, many of these things we’ve discussed can overlap and apply to many different kinds of families if not all of them.
Not everything will work for everyone, but these are just some things to try that could be beneficial.
At the end of the day, being with family especially during the holidays can be an enjoyable and joyous occasion. Even with some hiccups now and then. It is all about how you act and react in the face of difficulty.
Happy Holidays and I hope you navigate your way to a happy New Year as well!