By Sarah Moore
Trees and lights. Family and holidays. For many of us, these are naturally joyful pairs (trees and lights are especially exciting if you’re a toddler or a cat). Of course there’s the other side, too. Some people hold their breath and just hope for the best, especially if they’re spending the holidays with extended family (according to this Harvard Medical School article, 62% of adults experience “very” or “somewhat” elevated stress levels, partially attributable to family relationships).
After all, family dynamics can be tricky, especially once we have children.
Yet, we want our children to experience all the joy that should come with family and holidays, right?
Although I won’t write about my own family here because they’ll read this-I mean, because they’re perfect (ahem)-I’ll tell you how some people I know enjoy holidays with extended family, even it doesn’t exactly jingle their bells. So, what do they do differently to find joy?
1. They know their influence
If you’re concerned about extended family being a less-than-desirable influence on your kids, find joy and peace in the connection you’ve created. If you’ve parented with the good of the parent-child relationship in mind and your kids are securely attached, then they’ll naturally gravitate back to the norms of what you’ve modelled for them.
2. They have their kids’ backs
If you happen to have a child who hangs back at family gatherings, that’s perfectly alright. If you’re concerned about it, this article about supporting quiet children might help you. Your kids will join in when they’re ready. Let them rest securely in the knowledge that you support their choices and their timing. For family members who might not understand your child’s reluctance to jump right into a big group of people, but who sincerely want to connect with them, you might share ideas like these about how to engage kids without overwhelming them.
Even outgoing kids need support and occasional breaks from the group.
Allow them to relax and in your presence, with your full attention. A hug and some verbal support can go a long way.
The more you’re there for your kids, the less they’ll begin to equate holidays and stress, and will simply find joy in your presence-along with everyone else’s.