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Oregon Family Magazine

Nanny Connection: Making it Through the Holidays

12/01/2009 ● By Anonymous
The Holidays are coming, and I have little time, energy, or money.  My kids want too much ‘stuff’, and this year everyone is sick. How can I make this an enjoyable season for my family?

No doubt, these are challenging times, on many levels. This is when I remind myself about impermanence: everything is always changing (although maybe not fast enough or in the ways I would like) and nothing lasts forever!  Being sick can make it harder to appreciate what we do have…a loving family… a roof over our head…food on the table…and that eventually we will even get our health back. Perhaps a good place to start is by asking ourselves - what do the holidays really mean to us, and how we can best enjoy them this year?

For many of us, as adults, we celebrate the holidays the way we did as children; continuing past generation family traditions. Often we don’t stop to think about whether or not the tradition has meaning to us - we just do it because “that’s what mom and grandma did”. The more meaning we put into our holiday celebrations the more we will enjoy them. The meaning may change as our children grow and our families’ health and financial situations change. We may find more meaning in deciding year-to-year how to celebrate.

Infants and toddlers would not even notice if their first Christmas or Hanukah was barely celebrated, or not celebrated at all. Those early years mainly satisfy parents’ and grandparents’ needs. Young children too, may not notice if there are less presents, simpler meals, etc. than last year. What’s important is realizing that parents can relieve the guilt they feel about not being able to provide equal or more extravagant celebrations every year. Older children and adolescents, although more aware of changes, are also more capable of joining in on family discussions, and often come up with very creative ideas on how to make meaning of the holidays. Some ideas might be, not giving gifts at all; each family member only exchanging one gift with one other family member; making gifts instead of buying them; limiting the cost of gifts; giving gifts to families in need rather than to immediate family members; donating to a charity; volunteering; etc.

Although we are often raised to believe the holidays are “fun family times”, for many, they are not. They often are the time when we most experience grief and loss, especially if our life situation changed due to divorce, death, loss of income or employment, housing changes, or health. Acknowledging our feelings rather than ignoring them, can help us work through the sadness so we can experience the joy. Giving words to your children’s feelings (which often come out in their behaviors) can really help. “I can tell by your actions you are angry, let’s talk about it…”  “I miss grandma too. Let’s make a picture of all the things we remember about her…”

So, given your time, energy, and resources this year, what is your vision of the Perfect Holiday? What is your bottom line; the minimum you need to feel satisfied? Where are you willing to compromise? Where are you not? How can you creatively incorporate the needs and wants of your children (and other family members) with your own?

Gently remind yourself that it’s impossible to please everyone, and most of all, what our children really want (and need) most is our love, positive attention, and to spend quality time with them. It’s not (all) about toys or stuff - a little of that never hurts, but more of the aforementioned can go a lot further, for everyone involved.