For some, this time of year conjures up warm and fuzzy memories of being with people they love, of cozy mornings sipping hot chocolate in front of beckoning fireplace embers, of looking forward to opening gifts and revelling in the pleasure of giving.
For many however, this time of year is filled with dread. The memories are not so warm and fuzzy. In fact, they are sometimes heated and uncomfortable. Coming together as a family is not always as one would hope as old tensions and unresolved issues emerge. For many, the stress associated with wanting to fulfil another’s wish list or keeping up with an over-committed schedule may prove overwhelming. Below are ten tips for coping with the stress that this time of year often brings:
- Change your expectations. Don’t expect that this year will be different or better than the last. Decide to just accept what is—for better or worse. Try to erase the images of years gone by and start fresh.
- Don’t try to live up to others’ expectations. Be who you are. If you can’t afford to give large, expensive gifts, purchase a smaller, just-as-thoughtful gift. Or, if you feel up to it, make something yourself. These often make the most special gifts.
- Dress for comfort, not to impress. If you feel that there is an expectation to dress a certain way, yet you know you will only be uncomfortable, consider your own needs. You can still dress appropriately and respectfully without having to pretend to be someone you are not.
- Change things up. If you’re just keeping up with old traditions for traditions’ sake and not because they feel good, then consider changing things up. Create new traditions. For example, if you’ve always hosted a big meal and prepared everything yourself, but are tired of doing this, then consider a potluck dinner at someone else’s house instead.
- Take time for yourself. This time of year is typically when friends and family catch up on seeing one another. If this works for you, then enjoy. However, if you usually exit the holiday season feeling exhausted, consider spending some time on your own or with immediate family only to relax and unwind.
- Toss obligatory chores. If you’ve been sending holiday greeting cards to the same people every year just because you feel a sense of obligation to do so, stop. Chances are that the recipient will sense that a once a year obligatory card is just that. Send cards and gifts to only those you really care about and spend less time taking on chores you would rather do without.
- Do away with wish lists. Although wish lists may be extremely helpful for some, they are often a recipe for disappointment, especially when children are involved. . When children don’t have all (or most) of their wish list fulfilled, they are bound to feel upset. Aside from the items often being big ticket ones, wish lists take away the opportunity for the giver to be creative or to think about what the recipient might want or need. Children often feel disappointed if a parent deviates from the list and ungrateful children typically leave parents feeling disappointed too.
- Redefine giving. Instead of focusing on material gift giving, discuss other options with your family. For example, spend time helping out at a soup kitchen or a food bank with your family so that you can experience the value of giving your time. That’s priceless.
- Don’t overindulge. If you’re feeling stressed, try not to drown your stress by drinking or eating excessively. This will only add to your stress later on. Rather, go for a walk or vent your stress on a punching bag
- See your therapist. Knowing the stress that this time of the year often brings, book an appointment with your therapist in advance of the holidays so that once the flurry of activity is over, you can vent to someone who can help.
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Sara Dimerman is a psychologist and provides counselling to individuals, couples and families. She is one of North America's most trusted parenting and relationship experts and the author of three books: Am I a Normal Parent?
, Character is The Key
and How Can I Be Your Lover When I'm Too Busy Being Your Mother?: The Answer to Becoming Partners Again
. Learn more or listen to advice from Sara and her colleagues by searching for 'helpmesara' podcasts on iTunes or visiting www.helpmesara.com
. Follow Sara on Twitter @helpmesara
The holidays are almost upon us, and whether you’re planning on hosting a gathering at your home this year or packing up the kids and visiting friends and family, you’re probably going to find yourself interacting with kids that aren’t your own. You may even find yourself in a situation where you’re asking, ‘Is it OK to discipline other people’s kids?’ While this varies by situation, here are three cases in which you can definitely step in and encourage a new behaviour.
- When the child is in your care (at your house, in your car, etc.)
- When the child is hurting you or your child
- When the child might hurt him/herself and there is no one around to stop it.
So how do we do it?
- When you have children coming to your house or they are in your care, we encourage you to set the expectations and consequences as soon as they arrive. Be sure to include lots of ‘do’ language, highlighting what the kids can do rather than what they can’t do.
When another child is harming your child, you can definitely step in, especially if the other parent is not. Again, use ‘I’ language. Rather than saying, ‘You pushed my kid, you better leave him alone!’ you can say, ‘I see you touching Jack. If you need him to move, please use your words and keep your hands to yourself.’
If you see a child who will hurt herself, someone else, or something and no other parent is there, you can certainly step in. Again describe what you see and then suggest an alternative. You might also ask, ‘What do you need to be doing right now?’ or ‘How can I help you to stay safe?’
- When you see misbehaviour, use ‘I’ language and apply the consequence. ‘I see people throwing cars. Cars drive on the floor. When you can show me how to use the cars properly, you can try again.’
- You may need to redirect behaviour and/or include the kids in a problem solving process so that they can figure out how to work together.
Finally, the root word of discipline is ‘disciple’. It is about teaching proper behaviour, not about punishing or getting revenge. This is essential to keep in mind, especially when another child is hurting your child.
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Julie Freedman Smith and Gail Bell provide tools for real life parenting through their company, Parenting Power™. Using over 40 years of combined experience, they work with parents across the country through telephone coaching and teleconferences to ease the stress and guilt of parents while providing practical solutions to everyday parenting challenges. Visit www.parentingpower.ca
to ask your own parenting questions, and learn how to receive 20% off all services as a Parenting Power Member!