Setting Realistic Holiday Expectations (for Yourself and Your Children)
Give yourself and your family the chance to make decisions based on feelings and intuition.
Loved ones whom we seldom see. Hurried cooking and last-minute errands. Holiday sweaters and a little black dress. We expect that this year will be special, that it will end with the perfect gifts, the perfect family gathered around a perfect tree singing Joy to the World, perfectly.
Expectations around the holidays are high and this creates a pressure cooker of anticipation and assumptions both for parents and children. Parents feel pressure to portray a picture of perfection to their extended families.
“What will Grandma Sue think of my family?”
“Will cousin Sylvia think I’m a good parent?”
“Am I a good parent?”
The expectations we have for the holidays are unconsciously bestowed on our children as well. They hide in our need to perform and be at our very best. We urge our children to say “thank you” for gifts that they may not appreciate or from people whom they do not know. We expect our children to be on their best behavior, to play the part of the perfect child, and all a part of the perfect family.
This is a recipe for both stress and frustration for parents and kids alike. Our hopes for the holidays can prevent us from actually enjoying the day. Remember when you were younger and were expected to hug and kiss people who were virtual strangers? Think back to how you felt and what you needed in that instance, which was probably for someone to really see you and ask what you needed at that moment.
When parents resort to fear-based actions, especially those that are created from the expectation of others, it suppresses both parents’ and children’s natural instinct to check in with themselves and think, “How does this really make me feel?” Listening to ourselves is important for future happiness and well-being, and helps us make choices that align with our values.”
During this holiday season, try limiting expectations for family gatherings and events. Give yourself and your children the chance to make decisions based on feelings and intuition. Listening to ourselves teaches children to do the same, and is one of the most effective ways to reduce anxiety and stress throughout life. Try letting the holidays develop naturally and you may find that the season is more joyous than ever before.