From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Preparing for the Holidays: A Recipe for Success
Preparing for the holidays involves more than shopping, cooking, and inviting the
company. Holidays tend to be times of great expectations, and sometimes, big
disappointments. It is not unusual for conflicts to arise between family members who have
differing expectations for the holidays. When this occurs, times of celebration can turn
into times of power struggles. This year as you prepare for the holidays, I recommend the
following recipe for success.
- Hold a family "planning" meeting. It is important to give
thought to the holidays, and then to share those thoughts with your family before
the holidays. All members of the family have an important role to play in the celebration,
thus, it is important to include all family participants in the planning meeting. Family
meetings can be formal or informal. Ask everyone to gather for a few minutes, or combine
your family meeting with a meal when everyone is present. As people talk, it is important
to take notes or make lists, so that each persons ideas and requests can be
remembered. This is also a good time to communicate about financial restraints, so that
your plans will fit your holiday budget.
Sharing ideas ahead of time can help ensure a smooth landing for those who will be
traveling to see you. Both before and after your family meeting, it is a good idea to
consult by telephone with those who may be coming in from out of town, so that they too
will know what to expect.
- Create a family calendar. Everyone needs to know whats happening and agree
on the timing of certain events. Younger children, in particular, need to be able to
conceptualize a time frame for when the holidays begin and end. By posting a family
calendar, everyone will be informed about the timing of certain events such as when
visiting relatives will come and go, and when certain special events will take place. Disagreements
over timing are a prime cause of arguments during the holidays.
- The key to the holidays: Bonding experiences. Next years fond memories will
include this years special moments. Each year, we add a new page to our family
album. Allow time for both group activities, and enjoying those special moments which come
from informal one-on-one interactions. Holidays are times when members of different
generations get to know each other better. Remember to spend some individual time talking,
visiting, or playing games with various members of the family.
- Create a list of possible activities. Rather than wait for that awful cry of boredom,
it is helpful to brainstorm a list of group activities ahead of time. Over the
Thanksgiving weekend, our family activity list included: Taking pictures, making a
home-movie of the family, story-telling, going out to the movies, shopping, attending the
local Arts and Crafts Fair, going for a walk in the park, and putting together a jigsaw
puzzle. By creating a list of options ahead of time, it is easier to reach a group
consensus about the activity of the day, however, the group must also remain
flexible to changing circumstances.
While it is important to have a list of many options, it is also likely that some
activities will not be possible. When this happens, it is important to be sensitive to any
hurt feelings which may develop. Some great ideas may need to be postponed to another
- Each member of the family may have their own idea of how to celebrate. During
your family meeting, discuss individual objectives. One child may want time to bake
cookies with Grandma, another may want to include a friend in a special activity, older
kids may want to spend time together, or religious observances may be important. The key
to success is to find out ahead of time what everyone has in mind.
No two years of celebrating the holidays are ever identical. Each year, the
participants change. Some family members may be absent; new family members may join;
children have grown; all will have aged. Holiday times combine the re-enacting of
time-honored family traditions, and inventing new ways to celebrate. The key to making
this holiday season a success is to honor each family member by allowing them to make a
personal contribution to this years celebration!
ęCopyright, 1998, 1999, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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Last Updated February 27, 1999 by Gary M. Grandon,