I can’t believe that it’s already time to be planning for the holidays. How in the world has another year come and almost gone already? This is always a fun time of year, but if we’re not careful, it can also become a stressful and too busy time of year very quickly. Today I’m sharing some of the things we do as a family and that I do personally to enjoy this time of year and make it special and filled with memories. These are things I do to avoid taking on lots of the anxiety that can often sneak up on us.
When Hubs and I first got married, this was never a real issue. Somehow being in your early twenties with time off of work and no kids allows you to be a lot more carefree. This changed of course back in 2015 when we became parents. All of a sudden, it wasn’t as easy as throwing some things in a bag and hitting the road for the weekend. Or for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Traveling of any sort but especially overnight trips suddenly take lots of planning and forethought. And even with that, there isn’t ever a real guarantee that it will go smoothly.
Our first holiday season as a family of three was tough for me. I wasn’t prepared well and was kind of a grouch. (Everyone else had a great time, I just didn’t have appropriate expectations and frankly, there is only so much you can do to make “traditions” with a 3 month old.) I made some mental notes about what worked and what didn’t and by the next year, I’m happy to report that the holidays were full of fun, family, and friends and were even restful. Today, I’m sharing some of the things I learned to help the holidays go more smoothly – especially if you’ve got travel coming up.
Preparing for the Holidays with Kids
Decide What You Want to Do
First things first. Decide what you want to do. In your ideal world, what are all the activities, events, and traditions that you would like to do as a family or with your child during the season? This might include parades, community events, church services, parties with friends, office events, family gatherings, arts and crafts projects at home, movies, driving around to look at lights, etc.
Think of all these things and then decide which ones you absolutely want to be sure to do and which would be fun, but not essential.
If I’m honest, this is where I failed most in that first Christmas. All the “traditions” sounded fun. I didn’t take the time to decide what would actually work best for our family. As a result, I felt like Christmas sort of “happened to me”. That’s a strange way to say it, but it’s how I felt. It felt like I was going through motions, but not really doing things that were special, or unique with our family. I felt like I missed out on the “creating traditions” part because I hadn’t taken the time to decide what traditions were important to me.
Plan Ahead & Communicate Well
Once you’ve decided on the things that you’d like to do, it’s time to start planning. Find out when tickets for various events go on sale, if necessary. Ask friends where the best light shows are. Start looking at your calendar to determine any events and outings that you’ll need to attend (the weekends fill up SO quickly!)
Planning ahead is critical if you’ll be doing any traveling. Talk with family members and friends who you’ll want to visit to be sure that you coordinate with their schedules to determine when you’ll be traveling and how long you’ll spend in each place. (Or, maybe just invite everyone to your place and skip traveling!)
After your plans are tentatively made, be sure to start communicating those well to everyone involved.
When you express your plans and expectations up front, early and clearly everyone can work together to make the most of the season. One really great way to do this is to write things on the calendar once they are planned for everyone to see. Spend some time at the start of each week and/or weekend to go over the activities for the upcoming week.
Things go way more smoothly when everyone is on the same page.
Make Lists & Check Them Twice
Lists for everything. Make all the lists. Hosting a party? Make a list of activities, supplies and groceries. Traveling? Make a list of all the things you’ll need to remember to pack. If you’re sending Christmas cards, get your address list together. List all the gifts you’ll need to buy (family, friends, any secret Santa or white elephant exchanges, etc.) Keep to-do lists to keep things around the house moving smoothly.
This goes back to the point above. Having lists not only keeps you organized, but also allows others to see areas where they can help. This is also a good way to start delegating tasks, which brings me to the next point.
Ask for Help
I think this is a tip for life – not just the holiday season, but I’m including it here because it can be easy to forget. Most people are willing to help if they are able and know that you need it. Think of the people that you’re hosting for those parties. Why not ask everyone to bring a side dish? Or, ask a few people to bring some other thing – drinks, napkins, etc.
You may just want to ask for some time alone to get things done. Whatever it might be, don’t be afraid to ask for help. This will reduce your stress and get everyone involved in the process!
Take Time to Be in the Moment
Even the best made plans tend to be subject to change. Especially when you have children. Take some time to unplug and just be present with your family during the holiday season. Actually, do this often. Decide to do something laid back and fun – something that is specifically restful with your family. The hustle and bustle can easily wear you down and it’s not really good for anyone. My guess is, your kids just want to play with you anyway. So make it fun, make it merry. But don’t forget to be there in the moment.
Finally and most importantly, cover the whole season in prayer. Pray for wisdom, patience, grace, and humility to love your family and others well during this season. Pray that you would not get caught up in the comparison game or believe that myth that things need to be perfect to be memorable.