Managing Family Expectations this Holiday Season

Can you believe that the holiday season has already started? The holidays are a time for family, spirituality, personal reflection, gift-giving, travel, food, and so much more. It’s a wonderful time of year, but it’s also a stressful one. We envision an idealistic family gathering or holiday party, even though we know that this is not realistic. Many of us put too much pressure on ourselves to have the perfect holiday experience. While the “perfect” holiday may not exist, you can use the following strategies to make the most of this holiday season:

  • Be flexible – You may have a specific plan for your family’s holiday experience, or a long-standing tradition to follow. Structure is great—but at the same time, remember that there is no one “right” way to celebrate the holidays. Be prepared for conflict to arise. When things don’t go as planned, it is important to be flexible. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Recognize what isn’t working, and consider what you can do to peacefully resolve the situation. Perhaps you can balance traditions that are a little old-fashioned with newly-created traditions that the kids enjoy. You can adapt to the current situation, find compromise, and still have a good time. 

  • Set realistic goals – We usually go into the holiday season with over-the-top expectations. It would be great if everyone could smile for a family photo in matching holiday sweaters, but is that realistic? Especially with large gatherings, it can be tough to get everybody to cooperate. Make a list of reasonable goals that you can actually achieve. One example is “I plan to spend more quality time with my kids during the holidays by making festive crafts together.” You can avoid getting caught up in ideals and feeling let down by impossible expectations, simply by setting attainable goals.

  • Cultivate gratitude – It’s easy to get frustrated by the little things when you’re balancing food, presents, family conflicts, and expectations. Try not to worry about the details, and focus on the big picture instead. Your family is enjoying a delicious meal. Everyone is having fun, talking, and laughing instead of focusing on work and school. You’re finally catching up with your loved ones whom you haven’t seen in a while. Make the most out of the present moment, and enjoy this time with the people you care about. Instead of getting worked up over what’s unimportant in hindsight, be grateful for the overall experience.

The holidays are one of the most exciting, joyous, and sometimes stressful times of the year. There’s so many things to do, people to please, and expectations to manage. Lately, the preparation in the weeks prior seems to be just as important as the holidays themselves. You can use these helpful tips to have a more mindful and enjoyable holiday experience this year.