"When anxiety was great within me, Your consolation brought joy to my soul." Psalm 94:19
The holiday season means a lot of different things to different people. Lights and trees and decorations have been popping up since the beginning of October, or earlier. And as fun as it all can be, there comes a point where it feels like too much.
Counselors and therapists report an upswing in referrals during the holiday months as more and more people are worried about family issues, financial burdens, and unrealistic expectations. In fact, more than 50% of Americans report some form of holiday stress, and 45% say they’d rather just skip Christmas completely.
Much of the worry and stress that arise in the months of November and December come from experiences we had as children. Often we are trying to recreate things we did as kids or are trying to capture experiences we never got to enjoy.
To help today’s young people escape these feelings of worry and concern, let’s look at different ways to approach the season. As parents, grandparents,and teachers, how can we set a peaceful tone for our shared holiday experiences? How can we help the children in our care enjoy the specialness of the season without placing unfair emotional and physical burdens on them? In short, how can we be intentional during this time?
Be Intentional in Your Schedule
If you’d like to reduce the chaos and stress of your family’s holiday season, take some time right now to consider the coming weeks and months with intention. This requires a shift in the way you plan and prepare your family’s activities.
Rather than focusing on the calendar and events first, begin your planning by focusing on your end goal for the season. What are you hoping your children will gain from celebrations and activities over the next few weeks? Consider how you would complete the following statements as you set your intentions:
Be Intentional in Your Gifting
I remember one Christmas when my husband and I went completely overboard with gifts for our children. I honestly don’t know what we were thinking. We just kept shopping, and on Christmas morning we couldn’t even walk into our living room because the doorway was blocked by gifts. It was embarrassing.
Of course, our children thought it was fabulous...for the 32 minutes it took to open everything. They were excited for a little while, but by the next day they had already lost interest in most of the “stuff” that now filled every square inch. And the following spring when I did a big bedroom closet clean-out, I found 6 gifts that had never even been taken out of their packages. They had just been sitting on shelves, and all I could see was the wasted time and money that had gone into them.
After that, my husband and I put significant limits on our gifting. Now we use the following poem to guide us; each child receives a gift from each category.
Something you want,
Something you need.
Something to do and
Something to read.
Staying within these parameters has made our holidays much more lovely and calm and peaceful. It is also much easier on our time and money budget, allowing us to fulfill other holiday intentions such as volunteering and making donations.
Think carefully about the gifts you choose to be sure they fit into your goals for your child and family. Make these decisions with purpose and planning.
Be Intentional in Finding Silence
Our world is noisy all the time, but the holidays can seem particularly loud and overly stimulating. With Christmas carols and lights and crowds, it is easy for children and adults to become overwhelmed.
Find time for everyone in your family to enjoy silence, whether alone or together. Give your hearts, minds, and bodies a chance to rest and be still. Mother Teresa once said,
The fruit of silence is prayer.
The fruit of prayer is faith.
The fruit of faith is love.
The fruit of love is service.
The fruit of service is peace.
Allow yourself and your loved ones the chance to experience all of the blessings that come from a few moments of silence.
Enjoy Your Intentional Holiday Season
With a shift in your mindset, you will find it simple to move away from months filled with excess and stress and toward a season of peace and purpose. Rather than chasing fleeting happiness that may come from gifts and parties, seek the true joy that the season brings.