Just because it’s a special time of year doesn’t mean everything is going to go smoothly. In fact, it’s your expectations that can hijack that ideal image you have. A small amount of preparation can have an enormous impact on going from ‘getting through’ to ‘shining through’ the holidays.

Winter lights, presents, family gatherings and traditional foods — along with the magic of the season may come real challenges. How are you managing expectations for the holidays for you and your children?

What do you picture when you think about the holidays? It could be memories of holidays past or dreams of more satisfying celebrations. Maybe you have financial concerns or family members who make you crazy. What are reasonable expectations?

My family has had its moments and it was usually about the people. All sorts of things were affecting us, such as stress from work; the needs of our own parents; children going through phases and stages; wanting the holidays to be picture perfect; disappointing behaviors from any one of us; and who ended up in a snit. It was never about imperfect foods or decorations.

How do you create smoother, calmer, more loving holidays? Preparation is the key. When you know what you’re dealing with, you can more effectively manage your expectations. First ask yourself these questions:

– What do your holidays usually look like? Consider all aspects: people, food, money, gifts, behaviors, travel, religious observances. Where’s the tension, what is it about, and who’s involved?

– What would be the ideal holiday experience? Maybe it’s more of one thing and less of another.

– Change is often more effective in stages. What can you reasonably expect to change?

Here are some possible areas for change and tips for making it happen.


1. Whether you’re on a budget or have money to burn, set a limit on how much you will spend and/or how many gifts you will give. Remember that limits are okay, even in the season of giving.

2. Let your kids know about any changes in gift-giving. Many have high expectations for the latest and greatest. Ask them to prioritize their wish list and discuss how that fits in with your budget. You’ll be teaching them about managing expectations and money.

3. Consider making donations to a charitable organization in lieu of buying a gift.

Preparing your home and table

4. The holidays are a family event, so make the preparation a family activity as well. This is a conversation waiting to happen. Some adults love to take care of all the details while others feel resentful. If you’re not happy about doing it all yourself, ask for help.

5. Where could you use some help? Baking, cooking, decorating, cleaning, shopping, and planning events and outings are just a few of the things your kids can do. Ask for their ideas and preferences. They’re more likely to cooperate when you ask instead of demand. See who’s willing to do what.

6. When your family helps out, remember that what they do for you and with you doesn’t have to be perfect. Appreciate the cooperation and the memories you make together.

Family and together time

7. The excitement of the holiday, vacation and together time can wear thin pretty quickly. You’re off your normal schedule and spending a lot of time together, maybe too much… especially the kids. This is another conversation to have with siblings ahead of time. Look back together at holidays past for what worked and what didn’t. What can they do when they get on each others’ nerves? when they get on your nerves?

8. Is there someone in your extended family who makes you grit your teeth? Do your kids or spouse get antsy about spending time with him or her? Time for a family huddle. Plan now for how to cope with that person. Plan responses or a polite exit strategy.

Managing expectations for the holidays doesn’t have to be painful. Prepare with a few calm and honest conversations and have the best holidays ever.

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Originally published at www.fernweis.com


  • Fern Weis

    Parent Empowerment Coach, Family Recovery Coach

    As a Parent Empowerment Coach and Family Recovery Coach, I draw on my life experiences and training to support parents who are struggling with their teen and young adult children. I help parents create a relationship based on trust, improve communication, and set firm and loving boundaries. Parents learn to confidently prepare their children to reach their potential and thrive through whatever life brings. * Free parent guide- 5 Powerful Steps to Get Your Teen to Talkwww.fernweis.com.Moms - private FB community, Connected Moms and Teens. * PODCAST - Back to Basics for Parents of Teens