For many families, holidays are a time of stress. Many of these stressors are easy to anticipate and can be managed. One frequent cause of holiday family stress is unmet expectations. The holidays bring families together and if there are unresolved issues or poor communication skills or family tensions, these do not go away simply because “tis the season to be merry.” We may hope that things will be different this year, but too often, that is an unrealistic expectation and the result is disappointment and conflict.
Another frequent cause of family stress during the holidays is finances. In spite of our best intentions, we often spend too much. There are presents to buy, trips to take, parties to attend, friends and family to host and soon the holiday budget gets stretched. When the holiday season is over and the bills come due, it creates a lot of anxiety and family tension.
Another cause of family stress during the holidays is disrupted routines. As much as we enjoy the change of pace during the holidays, most of us do best when we have a schedule. When the children are out of school, the parents are home from work, the in-laws are in from out of town and the normal patterns are totally disrupted, life becomes stressful.
In order to manage the holiday stress, it is good to have some family conversations around these concerns before the holidays arrive:
- What are your expectations for the holidays? Which of these expectations are reasonable and which need to be adjusted?
- What is a realistic budget and whose responsibility is it to keep the budget? Is everyone on the same page about the budget?
- How long are the out of town guests planning to stay and how can we manage the daily routines? Who will cook? Who will clean?
Just a little bit of family communication on these points can make a big difference in how the family handles the stress that the holidays will create.