Simplifying Christmas

Focus on the small traditions rather big events

Skipping the parade two towns over means we have more time for the small traditions, the ones we actually enjoy the most: watching a favorite Christmas movie, snuggling by the fire with cocoa, pulling out the Christmas decorations and finding the best place for each one. These are the small activities that actually knit us closer together. Sledding trips followed by a stop at our favorite lodge for a treat, picking out which Christmas book to read before bed by the tree. The holidays are about the small moments, not the over the top events.

Do NOT try to see all the family

I don’t know how previous generations navigated family time at Christmas; maybe it was complicated for them, too. All I know is that the majority of my friends feel pressure to fit in time with both sides of the family, no matter how far apart they live. If there are any divorces in the family, things can get really interesting.

My friends all love their families, and yet the prospect of carting their kids hither and yon to see everyone is stressful and exhausting and very un-merry.

Before our son was born, my husband and I decided that we wanted to set the precedent of spending Christmas morning in our own home, with just our family. I’m sure plenty of family members were irritated with this decision, particularly since we’re the only ones who do it on either side of the family (Incidentally, we’re also the only ones with a child). It was important to us that we begin some of our own traditions and that Christmas morning be a magical time for our son, not a time to be ushered from one house to the next.

Adjust expectations

Listen, even with a slower-paced Christmas, there will be meltdowns. I’m sure at some point my kid will probably seem ungrateful. He isn’t going to enjoy the things I’d hoped he would, and he’ll want to do things that don’t seem fun to the rest of us. It’s the way it is. Every moment won’t be fit for a Hallmark movie.

Life with family is messy and sometimes annoying, but you already know that. Don’t expect things to be any different just because it’s the holidays. Family is still family. Take the pressure off of yourself to make perfect cookies or find the perfect tree, and take the pressure off your family to make perfect memories.

Simplifying Christmas means less stress, less stuff, and more time with my favorite people. I’m looking forward to a quieter season that I can actually enjoy in real time rather than focusing on how we’ll all remember it two months or two years from now.

Of course, I still started listening to Christmas carols at the beginning of November. Some things never change.

Megan Stonelake is a therapist and parent coach who teaches parents all over the world how to become more peaceful. She has written extensively on peaceful parenting for, Hey Sigmund, and The Huffington Post among others. You can follow her blog or schedule a session at her website. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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