How to Reduce Parental Stress at Christmas

This is the time of year children mention during the late news that they need such and such by tomorrow. Some days parents have a mere 15 minutes to come up with something for Scouts, church, or the homeless.

At times people feel the need to have a social director. Some perspective is in order here. Perhaps the best lesson of the Yule Gruel is that good enough really is good enough.

Reduce Guilt

Folks worry about feeling guilty – about not doing enough home baking, about not solving all the problems of the world (poverty, loneliness, etc.) Sometimes the guilt, and undue burdens of impossible expectations are almost too much to bear.

Make it your mantra that you will not accept feelings of guilt this season. Saying no to guilt will greatly improve your day immediately.

Allow Normal Feelings

People even have concerns about whether it’s OK to have the full range of human feelings felt during the rest of the year. When folks are happy (as all people are at times) they can feel like they’re shirking the job of helping others. Then when sadness comes, (as it does to all at times) they feel guilty for not having the perfect Christmas spirit.

Remind yourself at such times that all your feelings are normal, and make them welcome in your daily living. It’s quite appropriate to be especially considerate this time of year, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have a variety of feelings.

Relax Standards

Exposure to media and storefront can bring on storybook standards. Decide to be real this year. The baked items or songs sung in the family times don’t have to be perfect. It’s not the product that really counts; it’s the process. The sweet memories of shared times can bring a glow to the season.

Maybe the fudge didn’t get made for the scheduled event. So take a smile and a substitute snack. Maybe your child won’t like the inexpensive present received at the gift exchange. Isn’t that a great opportunity to teach the song, “You don’t always get what you want?” Assertive parenting may help at this point.

A parent could even suggest taking the unwanted gift to a toy collection center where it would be given to someone who needs it badly. Afterwards spend some time with the child bragging about the act of giving and clarifying the situation to facilitate the child’s experience of gratefulness as well as satisfaction of giving.

Invest in the Soul

Discuss the idea that it is the thought that counts. Sometimes the only way a child will know this is for you to point it out in conversation. Time spent developing concepts such as this are investments in the soul.

Attend your spiritual center. Churches often have activities which don’t break your budget, yet help you find peace and purpose in this hectic season. Remember your faith can help nurture your soul.

Find Lessons in the Season

Lessons worth carrying into the future make present efforts seem more meaningful. While taking the can of veggies parents can share with their children the story that helping a poor person plant a seed is worth far more than giving one meal. Helping the less fortunate allows a chance to show children that there is value in both short term and long term efforts. Give your children an opportunity to focus on the whole world, not just on themselves. What a lesson!

Embrace Tokenism as Part of the Solution

Two positive things happen during “token” helping efforts during this season:

  • People remind themselves to care. This could benefit everyone, and it may blossom into a habit.
  • Many people doing a tiny bit add up to making a real difference. Maybe not huge, or forever, but definitely real.

Include Children in the Experience of Giving

Guard against protecting children from the experience of giving. (In the rush parents sometimes do this and then wonder why their children don’t know how to give to others.) Slow the pace down and involve your children in the process of giving.

Far better than handing a child the perfect gift to take to an event would be to involve him or her in the act of choosing, even when the child’s choice seems to be a less perfect gift. (Most people appreciate a gift from the mind of a child more than a gift given by a child who doesn’t even know what is in the box.)

You can reduce stress in Christmas parenting and find your Christmas spirit this year by refusing guilt, allowing your feelings, relaxing standards, investing in the soul, finding lessons in the season, embracing tokenism, and including children in the experience of giving.

Perhaps this would be a fine year to cut yourself and others some slack. Perfection isn’t necessary. After all, even Santa has soot on his suit!

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