As a family counselor and family coach at this time of the midwinter holidays, I, Randy Rolfe, hear frequent moaning from parents about how busy they are, how demanding and un-understanding their children are, and how they can’t wait until it's all over!
Celebration is a crucial part of family life. Taking out time to appreciate our love for each other with ritual and fun helps reenforce our devotion to one another. Celebration is one of the seven secrets, in my book The Seven Secrets of Successful Parents, by Randy Rolfe.
But sorting out schedules with multiple families to consider , or trying to accommodate everyone’s special dietary preferences, let alone finding the exact electronic gadget that each kid wants or putting up the hottest new trendy decorations, can wear out the most stalwart among us.
There is another way. So here is my best all time holiday advice.
Randy Rolfe’s take-home tip for the holidays: Ask each child who is old enough to talk with you what makes this holiday special for them. Ask for one thing that they look forward to more than anything else. Just one thing. It may amaze you what it is! And don't assume it is the same as last year. Then make sure that their one thing is part of your holiday plan. Start a list of holiday projects with each person’s favorite thing on it and then add them up. There should only be as many things on the list as members you have in your household. And don’t forget yourself!
Then the hard part: Consider eliminating everything that is not on that list! Don’t worry about what the neighbors think you should include, or your in-laws, or the latest TV news magazine or mailing from your local store. Unless those things are on your own list. If impressing your parents with a fully decorated house is the number one thing on your list, then do it. But if it is not, then muster the courage to say: “We’ve made some changes this year to give us more time to be together and to do what each of us really likes best.” They can take it or leave it. But when they feel the love and good feelings which fill your house as a result of everyone contributing and sharing their own favorite holiday element, they may surprise you with their tolerance.
Here are some of the surprising things our family members came up with, over several different years:
All being in the kitchen at the same time baking holiday cookies;
Shopping all together at the mall;
Watching old movies by the fire;
Seeing piles of colorful wrapped gifts under a well decorated tree;
Going out together to buy the tree;
Listening to harp and flute Williamsburg Christmas carol recordings;
Sledding together in the snow, even Mom;
Mixing gobs of dried fruits for traditional fruitcake;
Opening stockings Christmas morning with a glass of champagne;
Wrapping presents late into the night; and
Addressing Christmas cards with a mug of eggnog and Andy Williams records.
This list meant we could eliminate: lonely shopping trips looking to surprise each other; fancy outdoor and lawn lighting; extravagant cooking and baking; expensive toys we wouldn’t really use much or surprises we really didn't want; staying up to date in holiday fashion; doing Christmas jigsaw puzzles; or trying to adopt other families’ preferences instead of simply enjoying them.
Instead, we realized more little gifts would serve the purpose better than a few expensive ones, hanging out together around Christmas cards, music, and baking was high priority for all, and going out together too was important. And simply consulting each member of the family, no matter how small, served to start the holiday off right. Do try it!
Come back for another tip! Thanks for reading! And happy holidays!