Here are some suggestions that might bring your expectations and experiences a little closer together:
- Lower your expectations and stay flexible. Martha Stewart will not be coming for dinner, so keep it simple. A relaxed host and hostess will do more to promote a fun day than a perfect home and dinner!
- Keep the decorations simple...remember, Martha won’t be there! A few decorations hung joyfully will provide more meaningful memories than the “Holidayzilla.” If it isn’t fun for you, don’t do it!
- Make it a team effort. Have your family and friends participate in preparing the meal or invite them to bring their own special dish.
- Simplify gift giving. You have so many helpers in your life: try to keep your gift-giving simple. Hot cocoa mix in a mug, spices for a veggie dip, a gift card, a picture of your child or their artwork is very thoughtful and shows your appreciation.
- If your child is hard to buy for, provide a wish list to people who might purchase gifts. Most will be grateful for the ideas and it will prevent hurt feelings over gifts that are not appropriate.
- If your child is easily overwhelmed or showing signs of distress, open toys in shifts. When they are done playing with one toy, have them put it away and then open another. It is o.k. if it takes all day or even a couple days to open all the gifts. Just keep your phone or camera on standby to send visual thank you’s.
- If your child gets over stimulated by too many people or activities or has problems at meal time, communicate the day’s schedule with family members ahead of time. Visit family for the part of the day or during a time when your child will most likely do the best. A shorter, happy holiday time will be better for everyone than a long day with possible meltdowns. If you are hosting activities, have some quiet times or sensory rich materials or activities imbedded in your day.
- If the holiday season holds grief or difficult memories for you, try to prepare yourself for the emotions or reactions that may appear. Pray for peace and strength. Avoid situations or people who make you sad. If you have a close family member or friend who you can share your hurts with, they can be prepared to step in or give you a wink to get you through it.
- Family gatherings are not the best time to educate or advocate for your children. If family and friends need help understanding your child, try to communicate with them before the celebration.
- On the gathering day, try to relax and enjoy your time together.
- Remember what you know...You may have the good fortune to have many experts in your life and you know what is best for your child. Trust your instincts, but be flexible enough to be open to new experiences.
- Try to be flexible and go with whatever is working. If your day is going differently from what you had in mind, but people are happy and engaged, let it be....
Family Resource Specialist