The magazines will soon be full of holiday tips - watch your alcohol consumption, carve out a piece of time for yourself every day, - good, sensible tips. And, as an agency focused on interpersonal relationships, we decided to add our two-cents with five tips you won’t find in the popular press.
The best advice I ever received is lead with your behavior; your emotions will follow.
Granted it’s not perfect, but it works.
The advice came from the director of an emergency department. The staff was expert at saving lives, but their patients wrote to the hospital president not with thank yous but with complaints about staff attitudes. Fix it or be gone, the president finally told the ED director.
So, the director told the staff, pretend, exaggerate, but smile, be cheerful, be friendly. I don’t care whether that’s what you feel. That’s what we have to do.
At first it felt oh, so false. But, not for long.
Whether it’s magic, hormones, or the positive response of the people around you, you begin to feel the way you behave.
And, that’s the first tip: BEHAVE THE WAY YOU WANT TO FEEL.
DIFFUSE AS MANY OF THE POTENTIAL LANDMINES AS YOU CAN IN ADVANCE.
If you’re an ex-, you know anything from changing the visitation schedule to who’s giving your son what can set off an explosion. And, anyone’s extended family can be plagued with who’s hosting Thanksgiving this year to whether there should be a spending limit on presents. Try to resolve these issues early - before the pressure of the holidays begins.
To prevent last-minute disappointment and squabbles, establish a game plan for the holidays well in advance so everyone is prepared for how things will be. “It's good to make agreements,” says O'Byrne. “In my family, the married couples take a turn at one set of in-laws', then the other in-laws' and then at their own home.” You and your brother always end up in an argument.
To read more about managing holiday conflicts, read Aileen Brabazon’s article here. And, if you have a particularly challenging issue to deal with, call our dispute resolution center at 815-4557.
Ask yourself, IS THIS THE WAY I WANT MY CHILDREN (GRANDCHILDREN) TO REMEMBER THE HOLIDAYS?
Holly Pedersen offers this sage advice: [Developing a Holiday Visitation Schedule That Works! ]
Continually ask yourself: Are these the kinds of memories I want to create for my children? This question will enable you to stay focused on what is most important: your children and their well-being. ...Remind yourself that these experiences will shape their views of childhood and will impact their own relationships in adulthood. It is in your power to raise children who will become happy and healthy adults!
When it’s not, take action. Find a way to diffuse tense situations. Expect some conflict to emerge and be prepared to deal with it with a sense of humor or , just like you distract a two year old on the verge of a temper tantrum, redirect the conversation. Carlton Kendrick offers some smooth examples in his article When Relatives Visit
Does your family look different this year? LET GO OF FAMILY TRADITIONS THAT NO LONGER FIT; CREATE NEW TRADITIONS.
Your family’s profile may have changed because a wedding introduced a new son or daughter-in-law, a separation brings the complexity of scheduling children’s visits, a second marriage requires strategies for blending two sets of family traditions, death of a beloved family member needs to be acknowledged, or a move leaves you far from those you’ve always spent the holidays with. Whether the change is positive or negative, it’s time to re-think tradition, keep what works and re-invent the rest.
Terri Clark, in her article Creating New Holiday Traditions, gave this example:
Picture this scenario: A child who always got the job of placing the star at the top of the Christmas tree is anxious to finish the decorating so he can perform his duty. Then the unthinkable happens-an angel that has been in his new stepmother’s family for generations replaces the all-important star. Because of its fragile condition, she insists on placing it at the top of the tree herself. Both stepmother and stepchild feel threatened, and dad is in the middle-he can’t win. A wedge has been driven into a new and delicate relationship between stepchild and parent.
How would you resolve this? Terri offers some good approaches for thinking through old and new traditions.
MAKE FAMILY PHILANTHROPY PART OF YOUR HOLIDAY SEASON
Philanthropy takes many forms and every family works with financial constraints. And it’s those constraints that offer the framework for exploring your family’s values. Set aside an evening together to discuss what causes are important to each of you and why. Consider whether to donate money or time. Examine the agency’s reputation and performance. You can even look at a nonprofit agency's tax return, known as the 990 form, to assure yourself that the money is going where you want it to.
Family philanthropy not only benefits those you choose to help, it instills a lifelong habit of supporting what you value.
So, these are our five uncommon tips:
1. Behave the way you want to feel.
2. Diffuse as many of the potential landmines as you can in advance.
3. Ask yourself, is this the way I want my children (grandchildren) to remember the holidays?
4. Let go of family traditions that no longer fit; create new traditions
5. Make family philanthropy part of your holiday season
We hope you find them useful. If you have other tips, examples of what you do to make the holidays fun, or questions others can help with, please add them in the comments below.
PS - If you found these tips helpful you can make a donation to NYCID here.