Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year
It’s like I hear the Peanuts song, “Christmas Time”; except the next verse, “happiness and cheer” isn’t necessarily a done deal; nor is it “fun for all”. For millions of Americans, the holiday season is not a happy one in any way. It’s a time of stress, lower expectations and in some instances, even lower feelings of hope. No way “the season to be jolly”, depression and gloom unfortunately are the emotions of the period for many.
As a parent, no one need tell me the stress people endure trying to make Christmas for their children a happy one. Everywhere we look, on the TV and at our neighbors, visions of people giving and getting hugely-no little presents here, no sir-while it seems like such happiness has passed you and yours swiftly by. And if you already have something going on in your life, the time of year could make it seem all the worst. The American Psychological Association (APA) has some pointers to get beyond all the grief. I’ll just paraphrase…
- Be good to yourself – Recognize that you’re human. Understand what your needs are for this holiday period. Such things like plenty of rest and providing adequate alone-time for yourself will help you keep it together.
- Be for real – Immediately embrace some facts of what you can or cannot do and then explain it to your children if you have them. Start early in the year and let them know which direction you’re going for Christmas. Explain the true nature of the holiday to them. Get on your Linus tip.
- Reach out to family and friends – Talk to people. The worst you could do is to become incommunicado during the holidays. Remember if professional help is something you even think you need even a little bit, resources are available. Please take advantage of them.
- Avoid Black Friday (That’s me, not the APA)
Even with all of this advice, it’s still a hard road to travel with siblings and little money. A 2008 holiday stress poll by the APA showed that 8 out of 10 people felt stress during the holiday period and 75 percent of them found money to be the cause. This is something I call the Seasonal Madison Avenue Pinch. We get it year round but it’s at its most dastardly during Christmas. So how do we get beyond it? It’s about healthy strategies.
First and foremost, create a holiday budget and stick to it. Second, recognize the impact the season can have on you and yours and take steps to alleviate it. Spend quality time together with friends and family, partake of a hobby when can, take a walk, exercise, get your rest. Where kids are concerned, explain things to them early. You’ll be surprised how adaptable they are and how much reality they can manage. It’s a strategy to prevent a whole lot of heartache.
And consider that maybe the best present you can give your children is a good dose of truth. Hey, Santa’s cool for the very young but after some years, it’s time to get real with your offspring. Let them know who it is that gives them happiness on this special day. Tell them it’s you and not some strange fat man, sneaking around in a red and white suit, eating up your sweets and everything. Kids can handle it besides which, you might be surprised to find out they already know.
Christmas is not a time to be suffering, regardless of how much money you have or don’t have. It’s a time of generosity and sharing, not counting. It’s a time that when you have two, give one to another. It’s a time of joy, heralding the birth of Jesus and the fellowship of all men. I know right now it may not feel like it but it is. Hold on to that as much as you can and when it slips away, remember you’re not alone.
“Charlie Brown Xmas tree” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –