Tips for Navigating Newness This Christmas Season
Many families take great pride in their annual Christmas celebrations. They’ve established traditions, and there’s no need to check the list twice! However, for other families and maybe for yours, the holidays look different this year. Maybe your son or daughter is returning home from college for the first time. Or your adult child lives in a new home with their spouse, possibly in a different state. You might even have “little ones” who are introducing a little one of their own this Christmas, and they’re navigating the season with a new baby in tow. Whatever the case, if you find yourself in a situation where there’s a lot of change this holiday season, we’ve got a few tips to help you navigate and enjoy the time you do have with your family.
1. Have clear communication.
Encourage all family members to be clear in their communication this season. Many misunderstandings happen due to assumptions and unspoken expectations, so before family comes to your home or you go to theirs, clearly communicate with each other. Ask yourself and your spouse some of these questions.
- When is the best time for everyone in our family to celebrate together? You might have more time together if it’s not Christmas Eve or Christmas day.
- What are our expectations for our college kids regarding family time, friends, chores, etc.?
- How are we exchanging gifts with our immediate and extended family this year?
- What does our budget for Christmas look like?
- What traditions do we feel strongly about?
2. Be flexible.
It can be difficult to come to terms with the fact that everything might not happen how it “always” has or how you’d like it to. Maintaining a flexible attitude will certainly help you manage your expectations. With your changing and growing family, consider introducing new traditions or celebrations that work well during this season. Here are some ideas.
- If your children are married and have in-laws, consider rotating holidays. If they spent Thanksgiving with you this year, maybe they’ll spend Christmas with their in-laws. Next year, rotate.
- Don’t wait until Christmas to give your college kids gifts. Send them a Christmas care package to open during finals.
- Pick a Christmas destination. Maybe your family will pick a new city to travel to together that’s optimal for everyone.
- Gift experiences. If your family is large—don’t buy presents for everyone. Give your entire family an experience. You could meet up to do an escape room or see a concert. This makes for great memories!
3. Take responsibility for your emotions.
Change can be very difficult. Everyone leads busy lives, and unfortunately, not being able to see certain loved ones or do Christmassy things may bring some sadness. It’s important to acknowledge your feelings around the holidays and connect with other family or friends who can be supportive during this time. It’s OK to grieve but making intentional decisions about your celebrations this year can lead to positive emotions, too!
- If you and your spouse are feeling sad, think about things you enjoy doing together and do them. If you like trying new restaurants, pick somewhere you’ve never been before. They might have some new holiday additions to their menu.
- If you’re feeling lonely, consider starting new traditions together to bring you joy in a different way, like decorating your tree with a new theme or volunteering.
- Encourage your adult children to be patient with you. Remind them that the holidays are filled with emotion for everyone, and be honest with them about how you’re feeling. Sometimes change is disappointing but acknowledging how you’re feeling and owning your emotions can be the first step towards embracing change.
Change is complicated, and it can bring stress. You don’t have to have all the answers or know how to navigate the holidays perfectly. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath. Remind yourself that your family is likely not trying to intentionally complicate the season. Take time to walk and talk with your spouse and brainstorm what a different Christmas could look like. And then, navigate the season as best as possible while still respecting those around you.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that though it’s wonderful to have your family around, celebrating Christmas is not dependent upon family, gifts, or traditions. Celebrating Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus! You can still experience a special holiday no matter what your family’s season of life because you’re not celebrating things, you’re celebrating your Savior.