Christmas can be a very stressful time for families, both financially and emotionally. Expectations around buying gifts can put financial pressure on parents, leading to increased pressure on the relationship between partners. Expectations around extended family events and interactions can also contribute to family pressure at this time. If you don’t clarify how you would really like to spend the Christmas season before it arrives, the joy of Christmas may end up being lost.
It helps to remind ourselves that all this ‘pressure’ from family, children, and the media / society is caused by our desire:
To try to keep other people happy and
To get approval from other people.
Most of us carry these two beliefs constantly in our lives and they express themselves in different ways at different times. Christmas is a specific time of year that tends to trigger these beliefs very strongly.
While wanting to keep our children happy AND wanting approval from our extended family are lovely ideas, they are ultimately beyond our control. Often times, trying to achieve our child’s happiness and seeking our family’s approval can end up being counterproductive. We end up stressed and feel “disapproved” in the process of trying to be successful.
Once we accept that we should stop trying to keep our family happy and stop seeking their approval, we should spend some time clarifying how we would like our Christmas to be, so that you are stress-free, both financially and emotionally.
If we don’t take this time to get in touch with the Christmas of our dreams, we can easily be influenced to do things that are not aligned with our values and / or financial situation. Other people’s wishes can be prioritized over our own and the day becomes unsatisfying or painful.
Your vision of the Christmas of your dreams may include having a budget that you agree to stick to. It may involve clarifying events / ceremonies you attend or creating together as a family to celebrate the season.
It is important to remember that the greatest gift we can give and receive at Christmas is the acceptance, presence, and happiness of others. Anything else you choose to do is simply a bonus.
Once you have your own Christmas vision clear, share it with your partner and children. Ask your immediate family to contribute to your vision while keeping the boundaries of what is acceptable to you and what is not. Remember that it is not your job to keep anyone happy and you do not need anyone’s approval to be happy and whole.
So if you want to address your children’s and other people’s expectations about Christmas, you can do the following:
1) Let go of the belief that you should keep your children happy. Ask yourself:
How hard are you trying to keep your children happy at Christmas out of 10? Does this work for you or your children? If not, take a breath and release this belief.
2) Let go of your need for the approval of others. Ask yourself: Whose approval are you seeking (within and outside of your family)? Does this work for you or your family? If not, take a breath and let go of this belief.
3) Brighten the Christmas of your dreams (including a budget)
4) Share your Vision with your family and let them know what Christmas really means to you. Let them contribute to this Vision.
5) Remember that the best gift you can give yourself and your family at Christmas is your own happiness and integrity. Encourage your own family to be honest with themselves about how they would like to celebrate Christmas.