Teddy Bears Moon Stocking

Happy Holidays … I hope

Tracey Columns

Dear Tracey,

I will have most of my family visiting us for the holiday. Like most families, it can be a stressful time. I really want it to be different. My husband and I plan to keep things as simple as we can. Our children are pretty young yet, so they are naturally excited about everything. However, my nieces and nephews are teens so I don’t imagine they will be too thrilled with much. My sister can get kind of controlling and her husband seems to get cranky. Fun, huh? My parents will be staying with us too and while my mother is happy playing with all of her grandkids, I know my father gets really bored and restless by the inactivity. At home, he’s always puttering. It’s like he doesn’t know what to do with himself if he isn’t fixing something.

Are we just being foolish to think we can all be under the same roof for four days and get along? Surely there are things I can do to make it easier all the way around. Any tips?

Happy Holidays, I Hope

Dear Reader,

Your concerns about visiting family are sadly, all too common. Fortunately, you and your husband share similar goals, which is a big plus. If you can keep your expectations realistic, I think with a little planning, you and your family can have an enjoyable time together.

I was happy to hear that you will be keeping things simple! You are already ahead of the game. Now, let’s make a plan for those personalities who may have a rough time enjoying themselves.

For starters, call your sister now and enlist her help. By offering her some of the control up front, she may feel less inclined to try and wrestle it from you. Be positive! Tell her how happy you are to have your sister to share the holiday with you. Then, ask her what she would like to be in charge of, explaining how you can use all of the help she can give.

After acknowledging how stressful the holidays can be, ask what her children and husband might enjoy doing? Make sure she understands that you do not expect everyone to spend every waking minute together. Sometimes, once family members feel a bit more free to do what they need for themselves, everyone relaxes. If this means your brother-in-law takes his kids off to the movies one afternoon, that should be just fine. Maybe it means you send him off on errands or simply encourage him to go for a walk by himself. You sister should have some good ideas.

Now, about your father … what do you think would be best for him? Why don’t you pick up the phone and ask him? It doesn’t have to be a big deal. Just say something like, “Dad, we are so pleased you and Mom are coming to Christmas. We both know Mom will be happy playing with the grandkids but I want to make sure you have a good time too. I know all of the visiting gets a bit tiresome. It’s fine with us if you want to watch a football game or take a drive some afternoon. And, I don’t want to put you to work but we sure could use some of your fix-it skills if you are inclined.” Most of all, make sure he understands that you just want him to enjoy himself and that you have no expectations of what that should look like.

Finally, have a game night planned or a special holiday movie you can all watch together. Get the teens to help you bake and decorate cookies with your kids. Maybe they can all make decorations for the table? Some children like to collaborate on a play for their elders … and many teens love directing younger cousins! Maybe one night, anyone who wants to can bundle up, grab the flashlights, and take a walk in the neighborhood. In other words, think about activities that get people busy and interacting, instead of just sitting around. You’ll all be happier!

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