Parenting Post – Linda Marten MSW

Holiday Stress, Kids, and Money –

Are the holidays “the most wonderful time of the year” or “the most stressful time of the year?” I have great memories of the holidays as a child. I couldn’t wait for them to arrive. However, I have met many people for whom the holidays hold terrible memories of Dad or Mom getting drunk and everyone fighting.
Even though, as a kid, I couldn’t what for December to arrive with all the magic of the lights, music, cookies and presents, my parents were not so excited.
My mother and father worked very hard to provide for our family and the holidays meant more bills and more stress. One Christmas Eve, I remember my dad was very depressed. He had just been laid off from his job and had no other prospects for work. As a teenager, I was a bit worried about him, but within months he found another job.

Sometimes our kids learn more from our failures than our successes.
My dad never said a word, but his example spoke loudly to me. What do you think I learned by watching him lose his job, get depressed, and then get back up and find another job? Resilience. He had the inner strength to bounce back from life’s tragedies and disappointments many times. Years later, when I was laid off from a job, his example was there to guide me and inspire me.

How will you and your family survive the holidays this year?
So much is dependent upon our expectations. My husband says, “Expectations are pre-meditated resentments.” Maybe so. Do I expect Christmas to be wonderful and happy every year? What if someone we love just died and won’t be with us this year? What if we just got divorced and all our traditions have changed? What if you just lost your job?

Do we really have to spend so much on gifts this year and put more on our credit cards? What would make the holidays the most meaningful for our family this year?
More presents? Or more good memories of times shared together? What’s the right balance?

Of course, our kids want lots of gifts and that’s part of the fun. We enjoy making our kids happy. And, how might we also teach them that it is the season of giving as well as of receiving? When my kids were little, we had a holiday tradition that they had to give away toys and clothes they no longer needed or used in order to make room for the gifts they would be receiving. This not only helped clean up their room, it also taught them to think about what they could give before they received.

This year, think about giving more good memories than presents.
How about a movie and popcorn night, or a hike in the hills, or seeing live theatre together, or being of service together? What about an old fashioned game board night disconnected from electronics and TV? Try it. You might make a few good memories that last a lifetime. Now, how priceless is that?

Have a memorable holiday season.

Linda Marten, MSW, is a Resiliency Trainer
[email protected]

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