This time of year can sometimes be extra stressful. We pressure ourselves, trying to make things special for our kids: family traditions, gifts, activities, parties, school celebrations, and other events. It's enough just trying to get from one thing to another and keeping up with our already hurried schedules and a busy lifestyle. After last year's holiday season, I swore this year would be different. We would escape all of the "craziness" and go on vacation somewhere. Yet, as good as my intentions were, it is not realistic for us at this time. (Here's to hoping we can make it happen next year.) Thus, I have been brainstorming over the past few weeks how we can manage to get through this season without being on edge, stressing out or "just surviving".
This year I want our experience to be different. I have found myself asking: "how can I shift my focus?" I realize my attitude sets the tone for my home, and I am guilty of letting things derail me so quickly. Some ideas that I have come up with that I want to focus on during this time are:
being present instead of giving presents
gratitude instead of complaining
making memories instead of ignoring my family's needs
We will be doing fun activities that allow us to be present in the moment with each other while making memories. Some of the ideas that my kids have come up with include: ice skating, making gingerbread houses, watching movies with hot chocolate, sitting around the fire pit in the backyard sharing stories. I am hoping that our focus can be on enjoying each other and the personal interaction from spending time together, instead of focusing on what presents we're hoping for or "new" gadget we just have to have. Our most valuable presents this year will be the gift of being "present" with each other.
Another idea for us is something that we did several years ago and would like to repeat. We went to the Dollar store and bought different items we thought would be useful for people living on the streets. We packaged the items in Ziploc bags (water bottles, socks, personal care products, mints, etc.) and had them in our car. Whenever we came upon someone, whether downtown or just at a stop light, we would pass out the small goody bag. The kids really enjoyed giving them out and it took the focus off of their wants during this season. Giving to others, whether it's our time, a small token of hope, or even just a smile, can really mean a lot during a season when there is so much suffering and sadness. For us, it helps shift the focus off ourselves and harbors empathy for others.
Often times, I tend to be negative; I find myself complaining about what I don't have, or just how things are so hard. One way that I found helps, is to shift my attitude of complaining to an attitude of gratitude. It's hard to be unhappy when I am consciously thinking of things to be thankful for. We will be making a gratefulness chart again this year. Last year, each day of the month from November to December we put one thing on the chalkboard that we were thankful for. There were so many things it was hard to just stick to one thing a day! I loved that my kids looked forward to adding to the list. This year, we will add to this by putting sticky notes on each other's doors with little notes saying what we are thankful for about each person in our home; something positive to wake up to each day. Things like this can bolster their self-esteem and hopefully bring more harmony to the home.
There are many ideas out there to foster gratitude and being more present during this crazy time of year. My hope is that I can get through this season with a more positive perspective and actually "enjoy" the holidays. My goal is to get to the New Year, look back on the positive experiences and time that we had as a family. Not feeling like I need to start planning how to "escape" reality next year.