Managing Your Family's Expectations Over the Holidays

Reviewed Jul 11, 2017

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Summary

  • Take care of yourself.
  • Accept that the holidays will be busy.
  • Cut down on cards and gifts.

Everyone knows that kids tend to get excited and adults tend to get stressed over the holidays. After all, the potential sources of stress are many—family feuds, time crunches, the “perfectionism” syndrome, travel, work, and school schedules, and of course money, money, money. But steps can be taken to remove the excess and get down to what most people really want—fun, companionship, and a break from the routine.

  • First, take care of yourself, because your mood, good or bad, will trickle down to the rest of the family. 
  • Accept that the holidays will be busy. The same things that stressed you out last year will likely appear again.
  • Make a plan. Jot down what you expect from the holidays and then what you think your family expects. Ask your loved ones to do the same. You may be surprised by their answers.
  • Manage time. Shop in advance, stock up on goodies, throw out the junk mail. Plan for at least one activity that you’ll know you’ll enjoy and be prepared to say no to the things you don’t.
  • Cut down on cards and gifts. Maybe the best gift you can give a friend is to let each other off the present-go-round.
  • Build relaxing time into every day and know when to give up and go to bed.

Prepare your children

  • Keep a limit on gift giving and receiving when children are young.
  • Ask yourself if your child will really enjoy a busy shopping center or a formal dinner.
  • Have a story prepared for when they ask: Is there really a Santa?
  • If you know you can’t buy them that pony or puppy, tell them.
  • Discuss the glut of commercials they’ll see on TV.
  • Practice with them how to accept a gift graciously.
  • Help children manage their schoolwork over the holidays.
  • Create family rituals for kids to have a sense of predictability and familiarity with holidays.

Dealing with teens

Teens present another set of challenges—you want to attend Aunt Frieda’s annual potluck and they want to go to a party. You can avoid some problems in advance if you:

  • Agree on the type and amount of gifts, even if it eliminates an element of surprise. Talk to them about money, or the lack thereof. Teens are often more sympathetic than we think.
  • Discuss and negotiate rules. For example, no parties or sleepovers on short notice. But have optional activities ready.
  • Tell them which family events are must dos and then allow them to skip the less important ones.

Travel expectations

Expectations for family to all be together can lead to feelings of guilt and pressure, especially when travel is involved. Add to that the expense of travelling, the logistics of packing, potential bad weather, and lack of sleep, and you have a recipe for exhaustion. Try the following to avoid travel stress:

  • Accept that you can’t be everywhere. Many couples face the dilemma of whose family to visit.  If possible, consider visiting one family for one holiday and the other family for another holiday each year.
  • Make travel plans well in advance, and let your family know of your plans. The sooner they know whether you are visiting, the easier it will be for them to adjust their expectations.
  • Pack ahead of time and allow extra time for traffic or long security lines at the airport. Pack snacks and make plans for keeping kids entertained.
  • Once you’ve arrived at your destination, don’t overdo it. Spending time with your family is more important than meeting everyone’s expectations.

All in the family

Having agreements will avoid a lot of undue stress, and will prevent assumptions, expectations, and misunderstandings ahead of time. Family arguments still erupt over the holidays despite everyone’s wish for peace, love, and understanding. Try to let the little things go and focus on a relative’s good points. Also, learn to respect other people’s choices even if you disagree.

Remember, holidays are especially difficult for new relatives and stepfamilies. Be prepared to accept new traditions and let others fade away. 

By Amy Fries
Source: American Counseling Association, www.counseling.org

Summary

  • Take care of yourself.
  • Accept that the holidays will be busy.
  • Cut down on cards and gifts.

Everyone knows that kids tend to get excited and adults tend to get stressed over the holidays. After all, the potential sources of stress are many—family feuds, time crunches, the “perfectionism” syndrome, travel, work, and school schedules, and of course money, money, money. But steps can be taken to remove the excess and get down to what most people really want—fun, companionship, and a break from the routine.

  • First, take care of yourself, because your mood, good or bad, will trickle down to the rest of the family. 
  • Accept that the holidays will be busy. The same things that stressed you out last year will likely appear again.
  • Make a plan. Jot down what you expect from the holidays and then what you think your family expects. Ask your loved ones to do the same. You may be surprised by their answers.
  • Manage time. Shop in advance, stock up on goodies, throw out the junk mail. Plan for at least one activity that you’ll know you’ll enjoy and be prepared to say no to the things you don’t.
  • Cut down on cards and gifts. Maybe the best gift you can give a friend is to let each other off the present-go-round.
  • Build relaxing time into every day and know when to give up and go to bed.

Prepare your children

  • Keep a limit on gift giving and receiving when children are young.
  • Ask yourself if your child will really enjoy a busy shopping center or a formal dinner.
  • Have a story prepared for when they ask: Is there really a Santa?
  • If you know you can’t buy them that pony or puppy, tell them.
  • Discuss the glut of commercials they’ll see on TV.
  • Practice with them how to accept a gift graciously.
  • Help children manage their schoolwork over the holidays.
  • Create family rituals for kids to have a sense of predictability and familiarity with holidays.

Dealing with teens

Teens present another set of challenges—you want to attend Aunt Frieda’s annual potluck and they want to go to a party. You can avoid some problems in advance if you:

  • Agree on the type and amount of gifts, even if it eliminates an element of surprise. Talk to them about money, or the lack thereof. Teens are often more sympathetic than we think.
  • Discuss and negotiate rules. For example, no parties or sleepovers on short notice. But have optional activities ready.
  • Tell them which family events are must dos and then allow them to skip the less important ones.

Travel expectations

Expectations for family to all be together can lead to feelings of guilt and pressure, especially when travel is involved. Add to that the expense of travelling, the logistics of packing, potential bad weather, and lack of sleep, and you have a recipe for exhaustion. Try the following to avoid travel stress:

  • Accept that you can’t be everywhere. Many couples face the dilemma of whose family to visit.  If possible, consider visiting one family for one holiday and the other family for another holiday each year.
  • Make travel plans well in advance, and let your family know of your plans. The sooner they know whether you are visiting, the easier it will be for them to adjust their expectations.
  • Pack ahead of time and allow extra time for traffic or long security lines at the airport. Pack snacks and make plans for keeping kids entertained.
  • Once you’ve arrived at your destination, don’t overdo it. Spending time with your family is more important than meeting everyone’s expectations.

All in the family

Having agreements will avoid a lot of undue stress, and will prevent assumptions, expectations, and misunderstandings ahead of time. Family arguments still erupt over the holidays despite everyone’s wish for peace, love, and understanding. Try to let the little things go and focus on a relative’s good points. Also, learn to respect other people’s choices even if you disagree.

Remember, holidays are especially difficult for new relatives and stepfamilies. Be prepared to accept new traditions and let others fade away. 

By Amy Fries
Source: American Counseling Association, www.counseling.org

Summary

  • Take care of yourself.
  • Accept that the holidays will be busy.
  • Cut down on cards and gifts.

Everyone knows that kids tend to get excited and adults tend to get stressed over the holidays. After all, the potential sources of stress are many—family feuds, time crunches, the “perfectionism” syndrome, travel, work, and school schedules, and of course money, money, money. But steps can be taken to remove the excess and get down to what most people really want—fun, companionship, and a break from the routine.

  • First, take care of yourself, because your mood, good or bad, will trickle down to the rest of the family. 
  • Accept that the holidays will be busy. The same things that stressed you out last year will likely appear again.
  • Make a plan. Jot down what you expect from the holidays and then what you think your family expects. Ask your loved ones to do the same. You may be surprised by their answers.
  • Manage time. Shop in advance, stock up on goodies, throw out the junk mail. Plan for at least one activity that you’ll know you’ll enjoy and be prepared to say no to the things you don’t.
  • Cut down on cards and gifts. Maybe the best gift you can give a friend is to let each other off the present-go-round.
  • Build relaxing time into every day and know when to give up and go to bed.

Prepare your children

  • Keep a limit on gift giving and receiving when children are young.
  • Ask yourself if your child will really enjoy a busy shopping center or a formal dinner.
  • Have a story prepared for when they ask: Is there really a Santa?
  • If you know you can’t buy them that pony or puppy, tell them.
  • Discuss the glut of commercials they’ll see on TV.
  • Practice with them how to accept a gift graciously.
  • Help children manage their schoolwork over the holidays.
  • Create family rituals for kids to have a sense of predictability and familiarity with holidays.

Dealing with teens

Teens present another set of challenges—you want to attend Aunt Frieda’s annual potluck and they want to go to a party. You can avoid some problems in advance if you:

  • Agree on the type and amount of gifts, even if it eliminates an element of surprise. Talk to them about money, or the lack thereof. Teens are often more sympathetic than we think.
  • Discuss and negotiate rules. For example, no parties or sleepovers on short notice. But have optional activities ready.
  • Tell them which family events are must dos and then allow them to skip the less important ones.

Travel expectations

Expectations for family to all be together can lead to feelings of guilt and pressure, especially when travel is involved. Add to that the expense of travelling, the logistics of packing, potential bad weather, and lack of sleep, and you have a recipe for exhaustion. Try the following to avoid travel stress:

  • Accept that you can’t be everywhere. Many couples face the dilemma of whose family to visit.  If possible, consider visiting one family for one holiday and the other family for another holiday each year.
  • Make travel plans well in advance, and let your family know of your plans. The sooner they know whether you are visiting, the easier it will be for them to adjust their expectations.
  • Pack ahead of time and allow extra time for traffic or long security lines at the airport. Pack snacks and make plans for keeping kids entertained.
  • Once you’ve arrived at your destination, don’t overdo it. Spending time with your family is more important than meeting everyone’s expectations.

All in the family

Having agreements will avoid a lot of undue stress, and will prevent assumptions, expectations, and misunderstandings ahead of time. Family arguments still erupt over the holidays despite everyone’s wish for peace, love, and understanding. Try to let the little things go and focus on a relative’s good points. Also, learn to respect other people’s choices even if you disagree.

Remember, holidays are especially difficult for new relatives and stepfamilies. Be prepared to accept new traditions and let others fade away. 

By Amy Fries
Source: American Counseling Association, www.counseling.org

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, assessments, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological, or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2019 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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