“Home for the Holidays”
by Anita DiGregory
Snow, twinkling lights, Christmas music playing on the radio. Just like that, the holidays are upon us. I love this time of year! But it can also be a very stressful season, especially for moms and dads. The struggle to meet regular schedules and family needs doesn’t take a holiday; instead, parents must find time for cleaning, prepping, baking, traveling, finding the perfect gifts, attending and hosting parties, and taking part in festivities.
While children may sail happily through the season with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads, parents instead have the countdown time clock ticking loudly in their heads. (Imagine the movie Speed; replace the bus with the family SUV.). Okay, maybe it’s not quite that bad, but with financial strains, extended family friction, crowds, lines, and holiday shopping, it isn’t always the scene painted in T’was the Night Before Christmas, either.
According to The New York Post, this holiday anxiety is termed “festive stress.” Citing a study commissioned by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, 31 percent of Americans classify the season as frantic, with 49 percent of moms suffering stress to create an exceptional holiday experience, and 6 in 10 moms finding it hard to take the time to enjoy the season.
Quality family time may be the cure for “festive stress.” According to the research studies, spending time together reduces stress levels. It also builds self-confidence, creates strong bonds, and nurtures a healthy lifestyle.
Below are some ideas that may help de-stress the season and enable you to slow down and enjoy the little blessings all around you.
Bake together. Cookies, fruit cakes, pies, or whatever your family favorites may be, some of the most delicious memories come from baking with mom and dad. Family baking is not only fun, it can be educational and informative, teaching children concepts such as measuring, nutrition, food handling, and safety.
Create greeting cards. Get out the scissors, glue, stickers, construction paper, and even pictures or text from last year’s recycled cards. Many kids love to get messy and be creative, and this project can be both. Plus, making cards helps with reading and spelling. Grandparents, neighbors, and friends will be delighted to receive these priceless, handmade masterpieces.
Make and deliver gifts. This doesn’t have to be costly. Many sites, such as Pinterest, have fun and inexpensive gift-making ideas. Whether it be jars with hot cocoa fixings, homemade candles, or tins filled with candies or cookies, everyone will enjoy these personalized items delivered with love.
Read together. Get a warm blanket, some hot chocolate, and cuddle together as you enter a new land or visit a different time period in your favorite holiday storybook. Family read-alouds are not only fun, they can foster a love for reading that can last a lifetime. Choose a classic like A Christmas Carol, Dr. Suess’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, or an old family favorite.
Have a movie night. Light a fire, pop some popcorn, and settle in together to enjoy a family favorite holiday movie.
Take a drive. With Christmas right around the corner, many homes and businesses are decorated with lights. Put on some holiday music and take a family drive to explore the sights and sounds of the season.
Teach a lesson. Often, Christmas can be a time of the “gimmies.” Take the opportunity to teach your children the joy of giving. Help them collect some of their own toys and clothes to donate to others. Many churches or businesses offer opportunities to sponsor families in need or to collect for the homeless or Toys for Tots. Talk to your children about the importance of giving and helping others. Perhaps they may even enjoy taking some of their own money to the store to purchase a gift for donation. By encouraging them to think of others, children learn compassion and empathy, virtues that are extremely important, especially in today’s world.
Make a visit. The holidays can be a very lonely time for many. Take the kids to visit a local hospital, an elderly neighbor, or a retirement home. Sing carols, play a board game, or just chat. Just having a visitor can bring some Christmas joy and brighten someone’s day.
Get outside. Studies show that physical activity helps reduce anxiety and stress. Bundle up and take a holiday walk and look for Christmas decorations. Go for a hike, or, if possible, go play in the snow together.
Help someone. Talk to your kids about the importance of helping others in need. Shovel a neighbor’s sidewalk. Help an older relative decorate their home.
Reflect together. Talk to your children about the true meaning of the season. Many churches host special holiday events, such as live nativities or Christmas concerts or pageants. Take time to pray together and celebrate special holiday traditions.
This season, like most, will be gone in the blink of an eye. By counting our blessings and spending quality time with our children, we can create memories and instill virtues that will last a lifetime. Taking time to breathe, remembering what is really important, and celebrating the true reason for the season will turn any Scrooge’s “ba humbugs” into a “Merry Christmas, one and all!”