We suddenly find ourselves in that time of year when families celebrate their holidays and end-of-year customs. Parents are bombarded with messages in the media to make this a magical time full of wonder and merriment. Social media creates images of families drenched in cheer and joy at levels that feel unattainable to most. It seems that the expectations are high everywhere you turn, and the spotlight is on parents to deliver for their little ones.
On top of all these seasonal tasks are the everyday demands that unfortunately do not disappear at the sound of a jingle bell. So, what exactly is a parent to do? How does one come out of this pressure cooker system feeling like they enjoyed any of it? The key to enjoying any moment is practicing intentionality and being mindful of what you are doing – and why you are doing it.
Here are a few questions to help you practice intentionality and mindfulness this season:
“What is most important to me?” Simple enough question, right? Sure, the decorations and treats are delightful, but is that what makes this time of year meaningful for you and your family? Create some balance in all your responsibilities and prioritize what feels most significant for your family. It is easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of any season and lose sight of why you are even doing each particular activity in the first place. The holidays can be a great time to model for your child how to prioritize and manage their time.
“Which parts of this tradition do I want to do?” If I asked you, “What does your family do at this time of year and why?” You may start that answer with, “It’s our family tradition to…” With traditions come rules, and we all know that rules are meant to be broken (just ask your kids, they’ll agree). Again, remind yourself that it is a-okay to say “no” or “not today” or “not quite like that.” The word unprecedented has been used repeatedly throughout the year. Permit yourself to use it during this time of year as well. Shake things up, dress it down, mix it around – you and your family get to define the rules (and maybe even break them a little)!
“What is the memory I want to share with my child?” Parents often feel the need to create memories. What if we removed the burden of ‘Creator of Memories’ and instead sought to share what becomes memorable? In releasing yourself from this role, you have the opportunity to encourage and trust your child to make their own curiosity and wonder of the world work for them. If you pay close attention, you will notice there are things that you and your children are doing that are already worth remembering. Take stock of what is naturally occurring and lean into it this season.
“Is this even fun?” Are these practices you enjoy doing, or are you creating obligations for yourself and your child? It can be easy to just ‘do the next thing’ without considering why you’re doing it. What feelings get stirred up in the activity? Are any of you even smiling, or are you just white knuckling it at this point? Say it with me – It is important to set boundaries and limits when events or traditions lose their enjoyment. Excuse yourself from tasks that feel too overwhelming or just plain unnecessary.
“Is it okay to just be together?” If midnight strikes on the last day of the year, and no one is around to cheer, will the new year still come? Yes, yes, it will. Time stops for no one. So, no matter what you do or do not do, you and your family are moving through the season regardless—this not a reason to panic but rather to remember that you can remove the pressure of perfection. The holidays can be a dedicated time for families to come together and share memories, and it can also be just another string of days on the calendar. All of this is ok, and both of these things can be true of the holidays.
So if you are hoping to make this holiday season a magical time for your family, remember Maya Angelou’s wise words: “People will forget what you said, they’ll forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ‘Tis the season for mindfulness, intentionality, and just being with your children. Now I must excuse myself, so I can lounge around with my little one and bask in our perfectly imperfect end to this year, and I invite you to do the same.