Maybe you feel excited during the holiday season. You might feel no stress as you look forward to making comforting food, giving and getting gifts, and traveling or visiting family. Perhaps you have memories of sharing time with extended family and remember favorite traditions. However, you may feel stressed during the holiday season. If you’ve lost loved ones to death or broken relationships, your family looks different. You might feel stressed over not having enough money or time nor are healthy enough to travel to visit with family this holiday season. If you are in the first group, praise God! Please, take a moment to celebrate these wonderful blessings! If, however, you are in the second group, please know that you are not alone!
Four Ways to Fight Family Holiday Stress:
#1 Take Care of Yourself
So often the moms are the ones who set the tone in the home. But you can’t possibly be kind and loving and patient and self-controlled if you are “running on empty!” You can only give from what you have…so what do you have? Your mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health matters! Here is an article about the benefits of being mindful in your everyday life. But, what else can you do? Ask yourself if you are getting enough SLEEP? Are you eating food that helps you thrive or just survive? Do you get time in the sun, get exercise, drink enough water? Are you prioritizing time in God’s Word?
Please, know that you have to take care of yourself first or nothing else will even matter.
This starts with your relationship with Jesus! Do you know that He loves you even when you feel like you are losing your mind? Do you know that He smiles when He thinks of you? Spend time in silence and solitude with the Lover of your soul every day! Just 5 – 15 minutes can make a HUGE impact on your life. Once you know in your heart that He loves you, you can practice relying on His strength to accomplish your tasks and create healthier relationships in your life. Then, your stress and fear can be replaced with faith in the God Who knows everything about you – and loves you anyway!
#2 Adjust Expecations
A while back I did a 5-minute Training Video in our Facebook Group called “Managing Expectations in Relationships” In it, I talk about the importance of being aware that there is usually a “gap” between what you expect and what actually IS. In short, we all have expectations for ourselves and others and when reality doesn’t match up, there is a gap. What you fill that gap with is your choice: You can believe the best or assume the worst in any situation.
- For example, is it possible that…
- Aunt Maggie is actually making that face because she has a headache – and it has nothing whatsoever to do with how she may feel about your table arrangement?
- Your in-laws are late simply because they are poor time managers and not because they don’t care about your time and being with your family?
- Uncle Joe is really just trying to connect with you and your kids, even though his jokes are sometimes inappropriate?
This does NOT excuse their behavior but allows you to see them differently to be able to problem-solve, rather than react from stress.
#3 Avoid Controversy:
I love and respect my parents dearly and I know they love me, my husband, and our children! We get along well and enjoy spending time together. However (key the music dunt, dunt DUUUN!), we fundamentally disagree on political, social, and even some religious issues. Therefore, we simply avoid talking about them! We are blessed to know that no one is going to change anyone’s mind, so why even bring it up?
If that is not the case in your family, I suggest you prepare polite but firm responses beforehand for possible issues: “Thanks for your concern, but I’m happy with my weight/our living arrangement/my job situation/ our schooling choice/my teenagers’ clothing style” or “I prefer to talk about something else. Tell me about your trip to Florida/how Aunt Sue is doing.” You could also try: “We don’t get to see each other as often as we’d like. So let’s make this a loving, fun time for all by talking about things that build us up rather than separate us.”
#4 Use Code Words:
Sometimes it is just awkward or hard to be around certain people. You may even find yourself thinking, “If we weren’t related, I would not be hanging out with you!” It’s good to recognize that. But if you ARE hanging out, you may as well make the best of it!
If things get too heated or just plain uncomfortable, have a “code” between you and your spouse. You can even include your teens too, to help each other disengage from a difficult conversation or situation. It could be simply asking, “Honey, I am starting to get a headache, do you have the asprin?” That could clue your spouse into knowing he needs to help you get away from the one who has you cornered! Or coaching your teens that when Uncle Tom’s jokes start to get off-color, they can say, “Oh! I forgot to tell my mom that Sue called this morning. Excuse me.” Then, when they say to you, “Mom, I forgot to tell you that Sue called this morning” you can help get them out of that difficult situation.
Share how these have worked for you or add other you’ve used in the comments. The follow-up video to this (Extended Family Stress and Kids) can be found HERE. Check it out and let me know if it was helpful for you!
Kate Fraiser is a Parent Coach with Connect Point Moms helping you create stronger relational connections with the children in your life. This starts with being aware of your own stuff so you can BE PRESENT with your children in the moment you’re in, and then knowing and using the best ways to communicate with them. For quick and helpful parenting videos, find her on Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, or Facebook.