By Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman
The Holiday season is fast approaching and school break is about to begin. Soon it will be time to load the family in the car and head over the river and through the woods to Gramma’s house or to another destination that promises fun for all.
Perhaps you’re thinking of staying home this year and inviting the relatives over to your house. Maybe you’re planning on spending some much needed R & R on a family cruse in the Bahamas. Whether you plan a short trip, a long trip, or no trip, how you prepare the family can make or break this year’s holiday season. The 10 tips below can help you make this year’s family holiday the best ever.
1. Establish a Mutual Plan – Allow every member in the family to have input on the type of holiday and/or activities they would like to experience. Reach consensus on what type of holiday you want to create. Brainstorm all the possible people to visit and the potential activities that would take place at each person’s home. Build a list of things you want to do, making sure that each family member has a personal priority included on the list. When everyone has a say, you build commitment and lower resistance towards the activities.
If your children are younger, establish the basic plan with your spouse and present the various options to the children for discussion. As your children become older, increase their input on decisions.
By allowing every family member input, ownership is established. Each family member can now look forward to the specific part they desired while allowing other family members to enjoy different aspects of the holiday. Each person can enjoy the part they wanted as well as participate respectfully in the choices of others.
2. Buy Gifts Within Your Financial Means – Purchase gifts (and the number of gifts) that you know you can afford. Stress builds as the money dwindles. If you cannot afford a gift plan to purchase it at a later date. Staying within the family budget models fiscal responsibility for your children and teaches them to work and save for desirable items
3. Stick to the Children’s Regular Schedule and Routine – The younger the child the more important it is to stick to your regular schedule. During holiday time, children under the age of 10 need to go to bed, get up, and eat at the same time they normally do. Young children’s bodies are not able to adjust quickly to time changes and schedule adjustments. The more adjustments in their traditional schedule your child is called upon to make the more mood swings and irritability you are likely to encounter. For less stress and a relaxed vacation, keep the changes in schedule to a minimum.
4. Be Flexible – No matter what the plan, be willing and able to adjust it. No matter how well you planned before hand, surprises and unexpected events will occur. Flexibility allows you to bring variability and energy to your holiday plan. Stubbornly insisting that the plan be precisely followed when roadblocks occur, can create unwelcome stress and tension. Relax and go with the flow.
5. Don’t Attempt to Do It All – Slow down. The more you and your family members attempt to "fit it all in," the greater the chance that irritability and frustration will occur. Set a steady pace that attempts to accomplish a little bit of the plan at a time. Do not push to accomplish everything on your list. Remember, a holiday is about enjoying and savoring the time you have with family and friends.
6. Remember Boredom is A Choice – When traveling (especially by car) bring a variety of games, toys, books and videos to occupy time. Be creative. The words, "I’m bored," or "This is boring" are a cue to make a different choice and change to another activity. Perhaps it is time to get out of the car and run around. It could be time to stop at a new restaurant. A travel center could provide treasures of trinkets, books, and brochures to rekindle interest.
7. Don’t Attempt to Do Everything Together As A Family – Although it’s important to do a lot of things as a family, it is OK to split up on occasion. You don’t have to do everything together as a family all the time. Different people have different interests. Allow for opportunities to explore these different interests without those people who are less interested and prone to "grumble and moan" through the activity. Seek opportunities to have one-on-one time with each of your children. The experiences of the individual will add life and energy to the family as they are shared and talked about later.
8. Follow a High Volume Day with A Low Volume Day – Give yourself and your children the opportunity to recuperate and reenergize. Mix a day of rest and low activity in with the fast paced, high-energy days. The entire family will be able to enjoy the high volume day when everyone’s energy is strong. Your family will only be as energetic as the least energetic person.
9. Eat Healthy Whenever Possible – Holiday time is riddled with large meals and extra snacks sitting around the house. As your family moves through the holiday the body’s ability to manage stress challenges the immune system. Eating healthy and drinking water instead of soft drinks (and alcohol for the adults) increases the body’s ability to adjust and cope with change. No one wants to be sick during the holidays. Eating healthy increases your chances of staying healthy and full of energy.
10. Make A "Be" Choice – Discuss and choose how you are going to "BE" at Gramma’s house or at Uncle Bob’s. Decide to "BE" playful at times, serious at other times. Talk about the various choices in mood and temperament that are available to everyone. If a day is planned where waiting for the meal to be served or gifts to be opened is likely, some choices are to "BE" observant, friendly, patient, frustrated, curious, or talkative. Help one another make choices that enable the holiday celebration to be enjoyable for the entire family. Support one another in making a helpful "BE" choice and in BEING that choice.
Once your holiday celebration is over, come together as a family and discuss how it went. View pictures together and reflect on what each person remembers about that moment. Debrief and evaluate what worked well and what did not. Consider adjustments that would make the next family holiday smoother and more enjoyable. Begin to plan the next holiday, keeping in mind the highs and lows of the days that just passed.
Implement these suggestions and you will be on your way to making this family holiday the best one ever.
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