Oh dear! Here it comes again…every year I’m surprised how Thanksgiving and Christmas sneak up on me! I’m just going about my daily routine, and suddenly life seems to go on hyper speed for a couple of months! I don’t mean to have a bad attitude, but I’ve started to dread the months of November and December, not because I dislike the holidays, but because my stress level goes way up during those months.
Yes, the holidays are a great time to enjoy time with extended family, and to share your appreciation for the people in your life that you care about. But they also add about 5-6 new things to my “to do” list each day! It was especially difficult to keep up during the holidays in the years we were homeschooling. So I came up with some ways to help stay sane through these wonderful holidays that our children love so much and I want to share them with you with the hope they will help you also stay sane and enjoy the holidays more this year!
Tip #1: Don’t try to do everything you normally do for school every day
You’re working hard throughout the year, diligently doing all the subjects each week and trying to fit in as much as you can in each day, right? (well most days anyway!) You want your children to know everything they need to know so you don’t dare let up? Well, during the holiday season, give yourself permission to step back a little bit and do some things differently. Make school days shorter during the weeks before Christmas. Cut back on what subjects you’re teaching each day, your kids can take a break on some of the subjects without getting far behind. Or just let them do a little less of each subject so they finish their work earlier each day.
Or let your children choose a subject that they want to study during the holidays. Maybe they’ve wanted to learn about horses, or the planets or some other random thing they’re interested in. Let them take the month of Dec. to really focus on studying that, and set aside the other studies (maybe not math and language arts, as these are subjects you need to keep building on or they lose ground). All you need to do is help them get the resources (trip to the library, etc.). Then let them share with each other, providing a great opportunity for public speaking and learning to share what they’re learning.
Or find some great educational activities related to Christmas. I found a bunch of educational Christmas ideas on Pinterest! Science experiments, learning games, ways to bring Christ into your Christmas, the choices are amazing! Don’t overwhelm yourself with these kinds of things though or you’re just adding more to your “to do” list, and then you’re going backwards on your goal of staying sane!
Tip #2: Purpose to have a “Jesus-focused” holiday season
Thanksgiving is a great time to focus on what God has given us and develop an “attitude of gratitude”! Put a “Thankfulness” jar in the middle of the table and have everyone in the family write two things they are thankful for each day on slips of paper and put in the jar. Read them each night at dinnertime. Write a note to each of your children telling them why you are so thankful for them and give it to them at Thanksgiving.
For Christmas, make time to reflect on why we as Christians actually celebrate Christmas. Take time to think about Jesus and who He is, and what He did for us by coming to this earth and dying for our sins. Read through one of the Gospels as a family, together memorize some of the scripture that talks about Jesus birth and life on earth. Find a way to help someone in need during the holidays and talk with your children about striving to do what Jesus would do at all times.
I’ve written a Christmas devotional called “Names of Jesus Devotional” that goes through the different names of Jesus and what they mean. As I thought about who Jesus is, and what He has done, it helped increase my appreciation for Him and gave me a whole different perspective of the celebration of Christmas.
Tip #3: Include some of the festivities of the season in your schedule
There are so many fun activities to participate in during the holidays. If you cut back a little bit on what you usually do with your school work, you can include some of these types of things. Don’t feel guilty, some of them are actually educational! What about going to a Christmas musical? Or how about serving at a local homeless shelter (this will be a memory and learning experience your child will never forget!), or a food shelf? Check out if a local church has a live nativity scene, or participate in putting one on at your church!
Tip #4: Incorporate some of your holiday traditions into your school work
Use the holiday traditions to direct some of your studies:
Instead of that handwriting or writing assignment, let your kids write notes to their grandparents telling them how much they appreciate and love them (what grandparent wouldn’t love to receive that as a gift at Christmas?) They can decorate the note, add pictures (there’s art for the day!), whatever they feel led to do. Or write thank you notes after Christmas to teach your children to be grateful and also work on their handwriting.
Instead of studying your usual history lesson, take time to watch the Jesus movie and talk about the time when Jesus lived and why He came. Encourage your children to put together a short drama enacting the story of Jesus’ birth to perform for extended family when you are together (this is a great fine arts lesson!). Our children had a great time doing this when they were younger and it was a blessing to our family as well.
Enlist your children in helping you do the Christmas baking and cooking (see tip #5 on this one as well).
Think of some things that your children can make as gifts for each other and for extended family. This can take the place of art, and possibly some other subjects depending on what they create for their gifts.
Hospitality is a wonderful gift to develop in your children. Have people over, and teach your children how to be great hosts and hostesses. Teach them to care for those who are visiting your home and be to be a blessing.
Tip #5: Reduce stress wherever you can! Simplify…
Frankly, I think that the holiday traditions that have developed over the years have gotten a little out of hand! I think we need to go through our list of what we usually do for traditions and ask ourselves and our spouse which ones we enjoy and which ones we could live without. Some of the things we are doing are really NOT necessary, and we would be much happier mamas if we didn’t do them! Give yourself the freedom to simplify your holiday season by cutting out some of the unnecessary traditions or activities.
Tip #6: Delegate some of the tasks you have as a mom
I can’t emphasize this enough! I think we moms think we’re superwomen, although I’ve seen some pretty amazing women, I don’t think any of us can really do “it all” without getting worn out and exhausted. I know I tried to be for many years, and it really affected my health. We can’t do it all! The first step to avoiding burnout, health problems, or emotional breakdown is admitting that. We need to let our family know we can’t do it all. Why make yourself and everyone else miserable when you don’t have to? Take time to sit down and have a family discussion about what has to happen during the holidays and how the load can be divided between everyone. Make a list of the things that your family can help you with and be willing to let them do it. You might find that they do it even better than you do!!
Tip #7: Realize that your children care more about spending time with you than they do about getting more gifts
The emphasis on getting lots of gifts for each of your loved ones has really gotten out of hand too (so I’m on a soapbox again!) It’s true though, our children don’t NEED all that stuff! Cut back on some of the shopping that we tend to do for gifts. IKEA put out a commercial that was eye-opening. It shows what children value most during the holidays, and almost all the children actually said if they could choose, they would prefer to have some special time with mom or dad instead of getting more gifts. Here’s the link if you’re interested: IKEA Christmas video
I pray this holiday season will be one that will be filled with joy and family moments that will be remembered for a lifetime! Seek Jesus, He’s the real reason for the season!
I’d love to hear how you lessen your stress during this busy season – please leave a comment with what works for you!