This is the third and final post in a series on how to beat holiday stress. My first tip is to plan ahead. The second tip is to set a reasonable budget. My third and final tip is: Manage expectations – and not just yours, 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.
Growing up, my family almost always went to see a movie on Christmas day, late in the afternoon or early evening. My wife, when we were married, was horrified to find out we did that, because she felt that Christmas was a day meant for staying at home – 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.
After 20 years of marriage, we’ve developed our own expectations of Christmas, which our five children have inherited.
But things can change. And that means we need to manage our expectations and help others to manage theirs as well.
I’ve observed other parents who lost a job and really needed to cut back on Christmas spending. But they didn’t. They wanted to give their kids a “good Christmas” so they kept up everyone’s 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 company 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.
How to Beat 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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