From Me to We: How to Survive The Holidays With Your Family?
Nicola Beer, individual and couple counsellor in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, helps moms cope with the stress of this season
There’s been a magical build up for months, the kids have been waiting all year and now the holidays are finally here. As the kids finish off the school term with another heart-melting Christmas performance and your husband finishes work for the year, there is a much hoped for dream that the holidays will be different, that it will be amazing and even better than last year. Sadly, for many families this will not be the case as the supposed happiest time of the year often ends up being the most frustrating time of year. To help you survive the holidays, Nicola Beer helps you maximise your chances of a great festive season.
IT’S US NOT ME
This is a very important thing to remember during the holidays. Mothers tend to go through the school term on autopilot, particularly stay-at-home moms as it’s their job to make sure everything runs smoothly. Moms make the decisions because they know what jobs need to be done on a daily and weekly basis and are often the ones who have to do them. The problem is that whilst you are in ‘job mode’ all year round, your husband is likely not going to be in job mode during the holidays. Just like you, he’s worked hard and now he just wants to relax. Whilst you want to relax and have fun with family and friends too, the reality is that you know that the holidays coexist with an even longer list of jobs that need to be done, alongside entertaining the kids 24/7. So, before the end of term beings and your life spins into a whirlwind, start by making a list of all the jobs that need to be done and include one off jobs and daily jobs, put the to-do list on the fridge and then when the time is right sit down and talk through what needs to be done with your other half. Remember that simple things like phrasing ‘we need to, rather than you need to’ will help ease your husband into the reality of day-to-day life with kids. Decide together who will do what and when and remember to schedule in ‘alone time’ for the two of you, even if it’s just one fun night out. Problems with jobs and to-do lists can arise when either one of you is a perfectionist and is too judgemental, or when one partner is nagging. If your list and calendar are on the fridge and your partner knows what he has to do, don’t remind him, don’t nag, just let him get on with it. If problems do arise in your relationship and you find tensions rising, then look at your own expectations first, were they unrealistic, too high? If things go from bad to worse, try not to make any rash decisions, simply note down what’s not working and what you would like from your partner and consider discussing any issues post festive season, when things have calmed down and you are not in the heat of the moment.
If the sheer thought of getting your other half to do jobs over the holidays sends shivers down your spine and you know it’ll end in arguments, then look at some of the following alternatives to make your lives that little bit easier this holiday.
THE FESTIVE LUNCH
If you are hosting lunch at home and know it’s going to be too stressful, particularly if you have additional children and extra guests, look at preparing as much as possible a month before hand and freezing it. Just about everything, except the turkey and a few vegetables can be pre-cooked and put in the freezer a month in advance when the kids are still in school. Otherwise, it might be time to think about ordering in or eating out.
Taking kids to busy shopping malls is stressful even on a good day. Instead of dragging them along with you, either do all the shopping before they finish school or consider hiring a babysitter and going out Christmas shopping together one evening with your husband. Remember to go with a list in hand so that you can get it done as quickly and hassle free as possible and also to give you time for a post- shopping meal and catch-up together.
Children are so busy that sometimes all they want to do is relax and stay at home. To make life easier, think ahead of fun activities and games they can do at home, take any toys or games out
the night before and leave them out. Too often children forget about all the things they have and just leaving one box of different toys out each night will be enough to entertain them for a few hours – hopefully. Another idea is just to write a long list of all the potential things they could do, then when they say they are bored, you have instant options for them. For many families iPads and screens have become just another source of arguments. Consider starting the holidays with a screen plan. Perhaps it’s screen time when the baby is napping or one hour from 7.30 to 8.30 a.m. and TV for an hour after lunch. Whatever it is, stick to it every day so that your children have some kind of structure and know what to expect. Children thrive when they know what the boundaries are. Remember to hide screens away when they are not in use and try not to use your phones in front of them. Alternatively look at free apps that lock iPads after a set time. Star sheets on the fridge are also good ways to reward your child and encourage good behaviour and listening.
A REALISTIC PLAN
Aiming for a stress-free holiday would be great but in reality, it’s so unrealistic. Holidays come with ups and downs; things burn in the oven, partners annoy us, children fall over and end up at the doctor, spillages can ruin your new dress and someone will always be unhappy about the gift they received. What can make or break your holidays will inevitably come down to your attitude. If you can roll with the punches, be flexible when needed and remember what and who is important in your life, then day-to- day mishaps will be less likely to raise your blood pressure and your temper. When things do get heated, opt for a few minutes alone time. Take yourself off somewhere quiet, the bathroom
is ideal, lock the door and take a few deep breaths until you have calmed down. If you are the sort of person who gets angry and irritated by your partner or certain guests, it’s worth considering some anxiety calming, positive thinking or anger management hypnotherapy. This is what I create and do for my clients to help them have a positive peaceful holiday. I give them a recording and they listen to it whenever they feel stressed. Learn a few breathing techniques to calm yourself down too, research shows it takes 20 minutes for the body to cool down after you get angry.
If you can remember one thing, it would be to enjoy the moment. Problems generally come and go and what was a big deal today will likely be ok in the morning. However, if things do get out of control and you notice cracks forming in your relationship then do voice your concerns, rather than let resentment fester. Serious issues should never be pushed aside, it should be discussed in the right place and at the right time, so that the issues at hand can be resolved and a solution put in place for the new year ahead.