Have you ever tried to be in two or three places at the same time?

I have always found it impossible. Yet every holiday season it feels like we are pulled in different directions by everyone else’s expectations of where we should be, and when we should be there.  Many end up feeling guilty for disappointing relatives, and some feel manipulated by their relatives when they try to set boundaries.

check-listHave you ever sat down to ask yourself what you want and where you want to be?  Do you want to have three turkey dinners on Thanksgiving?  Do you want to spend most of Christmas Day in a car traveling from house to house?  My guess is that the answer to these questions would be “no.”  As life goes on, changes happen, such as divorce, remarriage, and adult children marrying or relocating to new parts of the country. Even so, the family traditions around holidays are expected to remain the same.  Many times, we end up trying so hard to keep traditions that we lose sight of why we started them.  Holidays become about checking events, people, and stuff off the to do list instead of enjoying time with family and remembering the real reason for the Christmas season.

Here is a list of questions to ask yourself in order to make your holiday the best it can be!

  • What is your ideal holiday schedule? Sometimes we are so busy pleasing other people that we forget to ask what we want for ourselves and our children.  It’s okay to plan things for your immediate family because you need to start making traditions of your own.
  • What events are truly ‘must attend’? If your mom has a list of things that she wants you and your family to attend, ask her which one (or two) is most important.  It is okay to say “NO” to things.  It might be hard for some family members to realize that you have other obligations, but changing traditions is a normal part of a family that is growing and adding new members.
  • Are there events that you can reschedule for your family? If the tradition is that everyone goes to Great-Grandma’s house for Christmas Eve, but your children would like to be in the Christmas Eve pageant at church, could your family schedule a different time to visit her, such as during New Year’s or in January?  Your family might get more meaningful time with Great-Grandma and it helps spread out visitors for her.
  • What do you need to do to take care of yourself over the holiday season? It is important to keep yourself healthy and balanced, so do things that re-energize you.  Schedule them like you do everything else because self-care is important.

Overall, holidays will be stressful but trying to please everyone will be impossible.  It’s important to remember that change is not a bad thing for family traditions and it is okay to speak up and do the things that are best for you and your family.  If you find yourself feeling guilty, manipulated, depressed or overly anxious about the holidays, call to schedule an appointment with your nearest LFS counselor.


Manda Boothby, LMHC

Individual, Couples, and Family Therapist serving Sioux City and Council Bluffs

More posts about Mental Health