Important Communication Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

With Thanksgiving under our belts, holiday season 2013 is well under way. As we begin to pack for adventures across the country or plan for the arrival of house guests, it is crucial to recognize your expectations for the holidays and identify helpful communication strategies to make time with family the ideal picture of perfection.  Read on for communication tips to enjoy the holidays more fully and and to enhance family relations.

Communication Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season:

1. Recognize your expectations.

We all have our ideas of the most picture-perfect holiday: imagine kids playing nicely by the fire place while mom, dad, and in-laws sip hot chocolate and bask in the peace and serenity present in the household. It is not to say that this can’t happen, but it is important to recognize that this may only be YOUR expectation. Honing in on what you want and asking your in-laws prior to their visit about what THEY want will be critical in feeling satisfied with your holiday. Laying around the house might seem deliciously inviting to you, but if your in-laws are coming in from out of town, they might want to go shopping, see a movie, or do more active things. Checking in with your guests prior to their visit will allow you to plan out the family activities to allow for everyone’s needs to be met. Seeing a movie and going out to eat one night balanced with the next night’s cuddle fest is the perfect way to meet your expectations and the expectations of those who you are celebrating with.

A couple weeks prior to your visit with relatives or the holiday, connect with those who you will be celebrating with to find out what they would like to do and provide them with insight into what you were thinking of doing. This way you can all be on the same page with no surprises or conflicts. It can be stressful when people disagree.  By communicating in advance, you can prevent any conflict.

2. Identify your Boundaries.

Inviting people into your home can be so rewarding as you provide food and company to those you love. However, family members who mean well can also make you feel stressed out and frustrated. Identify your boundaries prior to any conflict. If you are the type of person who prefers to cook alone and do things independently, let those who are at your house know this. Simply assign other tasks for eager guests to engage in so that you can do your job peacefully and without stress. Set up games that your cousins or aunts can play with the children, have them tend to the appetizer table to serve other guests, or have them decorate the table. Giving helpful tasks to those who want to participate will prevent them from being underfoot. If a relative does insist on helping you in the kitchen and you begin to feel frustrated, directly communicate your feelings to them. If you passively allow them to help, your frustrations escalate and your picturesque bubble for your wonderful holiday bursts. Simply use an “I feel” statement to clearly exercise your feelings.

For Example:

I feel: Ovewhelmed
When: There is more than one person tending to the cooking
Because: I have an organized system for doing things
In the Future/Can You: Keep me company while sitting at the island, refill the empty appetizers, watch a movie with the kids

3. Communicate with your kids about what they can expect while being off of school.

When the holidays approach, that “school’s out for summer” mentality kicks in. While school-aged kids yearn for their two weeks with no school, it is important to communicate your expectations with your kids about what break will look like. Perhaps being a complete slug bug is not what you would like to see occur. Sitting down with your kids prior to their break to let them know what you would like to see happen is important to so that you can collaborate and make a game plan that works for all parties involved. For instance, maybe they identify play dates, a trip to Chicago for shopping, and seeing movies as what they had in mind.  Those don’t seem too bad. You can work on setting up a schedule that allows for all these activities as well as their extra reading homework, early bedtimes, and 3 night-weekly family meals. Knowing what your kids want and merging them with your needs is a home run. They feel that their needs are met and you feel as though yours are too. This additionally models for them how to negotiate, compromise, and add structure to seemingly unstructured time.

If holiday stressors seem to be negatively affecting your family beyond what seems typical, click here to understand the difference between depression and “the blues” in children.