By Hal Runkel
Originally published October 9, 2009
Now that you have read Part I and you've sucessfully regained your calm, you can put the following structures in place to create the kind of holiday you’ll be happy to remember.
1. Slow Down
We learned this one from our daughter Hannah when she was about 6 years old. On that Christmas morning, everyone started tearing into their presents. There were at least 15 people there and it was complete pandemonium. As I scanned the room with the video camera, I caught sight of my daughter tenderly holding a stuffed dog and shushing it. It was the first present that she had opened that morning and she hadn’t touched the rest of her huge stack. The grandparents caught sight of it as well and they began pressuring her to open the rest of her gifts. She was enjoying her dog and she saw no reason to hurry along. She was overloaded by all of the chaos and she realized something that we hadn’t: by rushing through the opening of gifts, we were actually cheaping the activity. Now, our family takes its cue from her and opens presents one person at a time, one gift at a time. Sure it takes a while, but that’s the fun part. It reduces stimulus overload, it gives time for pictures, it builds lasting memories.
2. Speed Up
The old aphorism is true: fish and visitors smell in 3 days. Keep your family “trips” short and sweet. It’s always better to leave on a good note than to overstay your welcome. If you do find yourself staying longer than you’d like, remember this fact: just because you’re staying at someone’s house, doesn’t mean you should spend all of your time together. That’s just too much pressure on everyone involved. We shouldn't be shocked one family member lets off steam – that’s what pressure cookers do. So, build in pressure release valves in the form of one on one time with each of your kids. Let them vent. Empathize with them if they are annoyed by a cousin or if they miss their friends. By simply giving them a safe place to talk, you'll be creating lasting memories and building relationships. If you struggle with listening (a difficult skill, to be sure), remember the three best words you can use to get kids talking: “Tell me more.”
Take care of yourself during these most stressful of days. Take a really long shower – go see a movie – take a walk – go and get some coffee. Recharge and renew. If you can take mini-retreats away from it all – even in the midst of it all, you’ll be better equipped to be calm, cool, and connected when you return