Saturday, November 18, 2006

Keeping your Sanity during the Holidays, Advice from a Mother

By Christina VanGinkel

If you have kids old enough to talk, and Santa is the theme around your house come December, chances are it has already started. They have made their list, and checked it twice, added to it, made addendums, and will let you know when it will be finalized so that you can overnight it to the big guy in the red suit.

Even those of you with kids too young to make out their own list are probably feeling pressured too. So and so is getting this for their baby, and you heard that the average parent spends such amount of dollars on each child of theirs during the holidays. No way could you ever do that though, as your budget is way too tight! Toss in a mother-in-law who thinks she knows better where your baby or older child is concerned more than you do, even when it comes to what to buy or not buy for the kids, and well, stress is probably your best friend right now.

I will let you in on a little secret though. Yes, some parents go overboard, spending like there is no tomorrow to make sure each Christmas is like a pleasant happy dream for their offspring, but just as many, if not more people spend their Christmas morning hoping the few small things they could pull together will suffice.

Finding the middle ground if you are financially able is the real key. In addition, if the budget is tight, then realizing that making do will just have to do this year, could be the key to keeping your head above water when it comes to your sanity and stress level. This year is as good as any to start a few traditions that will help you to keep your stress level in control both this holiday season and all those to come.

Set Limits

I know it has been said before, but it really does work. Set a limit on how many gifts your children will each receive. One common scenario that seems popular is one large gift and two small for each child. One family that I know personally, that has five kids, chooses one large gift for the family overall, and two small gifts for each child. The large gift has been items such as a new television for the family room, a game system, and a trampoline for outdoors during the summer months. The point being that whatever you choose, can work. If that is what the tradition in your family is, they will not grow to expect more as that will just be how your family celebrates. Traditions can grow to mean more to your children than the what, or how much, they get. After all, Christmas should not be about the amount, but the act of giving something to them that you took the time to consider.

Speak Up

Some might disagree with me, but the holidays should not be any different from any other time of the year when it comes to dealing with other adults in your life. If you do have a mother-in-law, or any other relative who feels the need to tell you how to do something that you disagree with, be calm, but just tell them no, you do it this way. Save the explaining. Remember that you are an adult, not a child, and you do not owe anyone an explanation of why you choose to allow things, or not, when it comes to your children. For example, if you do not want your children to have adult rated games or movies, tell the other adults that give them gifts before the season starts. Only by speaking up can you avoid the issues before they erupt.

Have Fun

Come up with some simple activities to do with your children so the holidays are about more than what they can get under the tree come Christmas morning. Toddlers through teens enjoy spending time with their parents if given the chance to do so. Dip some pretzels in chocolate and sprinkles, make a paper chain to hang on the tree, check out a new holiday movie either at the theater or via a rental. Not all activities have to be elaborate, actually the opposite. Sledding in your front yard, ice skating, even a bit of window shopping with all money left at home save for a few dollars for a treat can all be ideal ways to have some fun when the world around you is losing their sanity trying to keep up or outdo their neighbors when it comes to buying elaborate gifts for the kids this holiday season.

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