It’s Christmastime and it’s time to celebrate! But for many parents, just the thought of the season makes them want to scream “Bah hum-bug!” Why? It’s because the holidays can be hectic, heartbreaking, harrowing, and just plain hard to deal with. In short, the holidays can be a hassle! Even though we’re celebrating the birth of our Savior and our gratefulness to God for His many blessings, the thought of Christmas shopping, school and church “holiday pageants,” and the various Christmas festivities can cause us a lot of stress!
But here’s the good news — there is a remedy for getting beyond the “Bah hum-bug!” By reducing your family’s stress levels, you can make the most of your family’s Christmas this year! I call this remedy the “Four R’s” and I hope you’ll find them helpful!
1. Refresh. Revisit some old family traditions that you haven’t enjoyed for a while and take the initiative to create some new ones. Some of the previous generations did a better job than we do with building family traditions. The next time your extended family gets together, take note of how much of the conversation is centered around family traditions and stories. You may hear the same stories at each get together — but these traditions and their stories create family togetherness. Traditions are important for families because they provide opportunities to keep your family legacy going. From the simple to the silly to the sentimental, traditions can create meaningful memories. As a parent, one of your jobs is to look for ways to promote special moments and traditions for your family — ones that will create special family memories that your kids will keep forever. So, for example, the holidays are a perfect time for baking, so if it’s been some time since someone took a swing at making Great-Grandma’s Apple Pie, dust off the recipe and see if you and the kids can do it justice. And how about family playtime? I know of one family that has a collection of board games they only play at Christmastime. I’d suspect your family has a tradition or two — a recipe or a board game for example — that needs revisiting this year. Relive some familiar memories and take advantage of a chance to make a few new ones as well.
2. Restore. Christmastime is a great time to reestablish connections with friends and family members with whom you’ve lost touch. Now, I realize that this is a common goal during the holidays. But sometimes I fear we come to that realization too soon, and then don’t follow through on trying to reconnect. Make a goal of restoring connection with at least one person or family this year. If conflict has been an issue, don’t ignore it, but rather take the first step toward addressing the issue and make it known you desire reconciliation. Still, set realistic expectations. While it will probably take more than one holiday phone call or email to completely restore a fractured relationship, doing something rather than nothing is a good starting place.
3. Relax. There are only so many hours in the day, so much money at your discretion, and only so much of “you” to go around. You’ll probably be invited to more gatherings than you can attend, so you may wind up feeling as though you need to spend more on the presents you’ll buy for your family to compensate. Well, it is my profound privilege to give you permission to not attend every Christmas pageant featuring a distant relative of yours, and when you’ve maxed out your gift-purchasing budget, please know that it’s perfectly okay to say, “Enough. Our shopping is through.”
4. Rejoice. And again, I say, “Rejoice!” Thankfulness is an important trait to build into your family — especially at the holiday season. While the holidays provide most of us with plenty of stress points that can then lead to feelings of depression, we can make an intentional choice to be thankful instead. We’re giving thanks to God and celebrating the birth of our Savior — our whole reason for living! What kind of message do we send to an unbelieving world if we’re cranky, hassled, and sad during the Christmastime? Of all people, we should be the ones leading the celebrations! So, enjoy the season and watch how many people wonder why you’re so happy!
I know families have a lot going on this time of year. But Christmastime can be a pleasant experience, especially if you pay attention to your emotional, physical, relational, and spiritual health. All those needs were met one night in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago. Jesus came to refresh the sagging spirits of those who longed to see the Messiah, to restore the primary relationship between God and mankind, to relax the hearts of those weary of struggling with sin and wondering if all hope was lost, and to rejoice with those He came to save — all of course, wonderful gifts from our heavenly Father Himself.
True, the whole world may be celebrating at Christmas. While most of the people in your world celebrate Christmas, you know the real reason it’s such a celebration. When the pressures of the holidays have you feeling hassled, just imagine the face of our Infant King cooing, giggling, and soaking in the moment. What a great example to follow!