This is the third and final post in a series on how to beat holiday stress. My first tip is about planning ahead. The second tip is about reducing financial pressure. My third and final tip is about managing expectations – not just your expectations, but also the expectations of others.
I think everyone has some kind of expectation of what Christmas ought to be like. We all have certain traditions we’ve grown up with, or things that we’ve added over time.
When I was growing up, my family almost always went to see a movie on Christmas day, late in the afternoon or early evening. When my wife first learned about this holiday tradition, she was horrified, because she felt that Christmas was a day meant for staying at home with family and playing games or doing puzzles – not going out to a movie.
Was I right and she wrong? Of course.
I mean…it wasn’t that one of us was right and the other wrong. It was just that we had different expectations of what Christmas was supposed to be like.
As we had children, we had developed our own expectations of Christmas, which our five children have now inherited.
But now that our eldest son was married a year ago, and we added a beautiful daughter-in-law to our family, we’ve had to adjust our expectations again.
Helping Kids Manage Christmas Expectations
In my role as a pastor, I’ve had many conversations with members of our church family and community who experience times of financial need.
Many times during and after the holidays, I would hear from people who needed to cut back on Christmas spending but they just couldn’t bring themselves to do so. They lost a job, or got cut back, and they didn’t have the income they were used to. But they wanted to give their kids a “good Christmas,” so they maintained their kids’ expectations and spent like they always had.
Of course, if you’re spending like usual, and you have no income, you’ll end up in debt if you don’t have adequate savings. And those credit card bills no doubt will create a lot of post-holiday stress which may last long into the new year.
One year when I was young, my dad’s factory went on strike. He was out of work for 18 months. I remember that Christmas was pretty “lean” that year, but my mom and dad helped me and my brother to understand what was going on and why.
They managed our expectations and showed us ways we could help them by only “wishing” for gifts in a certain price range, and not asking for the moon and the stars. If they had not done that, I’m sure my whining would have caused them unneeded holiday stress!
Some years my wife and I have decided to just give small stocking stuffers to our kids not buy them larger gifts so we could use that money we would have spent on Christmas to go on a big family vacation instead.
This idea can work great if you help people to manage their expectations of what Christmas will be like by giving them a heads up in advance of what you’re doing and why.
You Can Avoid Holiday Stress
Don’t let yourself get stressed out by your or other people’s expectations of what Christmas should be like this year based on the past.
Plan ahead, set a reasonable budget, and set your expectations for how you want to enjoy Christmas this year. Celebrating the birth of Christ, the Prince of Peace, should – and can – be more joyful than stressful! That’s my prayer for you this Christmas.
Have other people’s expectations caused stress in your past Christmas celebrations?
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