Add a Little More Joy to Your Family’s Holiday

“Tidings of comfort and joy.” Yeah, right. So many wives I know view the holidays—starting next week—as a time of overwhelming responsibilities. They feel the weight of creating a magical experience for their husband and children, and sometimes for other family members. Comfort and joy might be the last things on their minds. Husbands and wives have a responsibility to change the tone of the season.

I’m planning to do a few posts on this topic to help minimize stress during the holidays, but if you hope to have any energy and joy to infuse into your holidays, now is the time to do something differently. Put comfort and joy back on your radar this year.  Would you like the enjoy the holidays more, and see your spouse enjoying them more?

Find the Joy
Whether you have positive or negative memories of the holidays growing up, chances are you can think of a few things this time of year that excite you. Brainstorm ideas on your own about things you would like to do during the season, and then ask your spouse for input on what is important to him or her. The key is to get those items on your calendar before the extraneous events begin to crowd out what you find joyful. Do you love food, travel, religious services, or musical performances? Make time for the things you enjoy. Cut down on the obligations you don’t enjoy.

Even small things like scheduling time to make a gingerbread house or drive through the Christmas light displays can put a little jingle in your step and give you a great memory to treasure.  Schedule an evening to watch old Christmas movies while cuddled up with your sweetheart and the kids (or the dogs/cats). Think about annual traditions you would like to begin. They don’t have to be like everyone else’s traditions, but they should incorporate what you value most. If faith is important to you, schedule ample time for religious traditions. Keep some family traditions for the two of you as husband and wife. If you have always spent holidays with extended family, don’t forget to create some of your own unique traditions.

Schedule It In
One you have all your “want tos” and “have tos” on a list, get them onto the family calendar. You may find some things you have done in previous years have to be deleted to make room for new fun. That may mean you may not have time to prepare homemade food baskets for your neighbors or for knitting scarves for all your friends (unless this is what you enjoy most). You might have to skip a few holiday parties, or just stop by for 30 minutes instead of spending the entire evening. Do you really need to write a four-page Christmas letter or develop custom cards? Must you decorate three Christmas trees?

Try to do the things you decide to keep on the calendar with more joy. If your wife needs help putting the lights on the tree, try not to be a grouch. If your husband has done all the shopping and asks you to pick up one item, do it with a smile. If your kids need help writing letters to Santa, give them your full attention, and savor the memory.

Revise the Gifting
Part of the stress of the holidays is the overwhelming gift giving. Talk to your spouse about paring down the list of presents you’ll each need to purchase. Offer to help so one person isn’t expected to do all the planning, shopping, wrapping, cooking and entertaining. If you have young children, let them help you plan creative gift ideas, or give charitable gifts. Last year, my kids and I surprised my husband by secretly practicing and performing a song together. We also had them each select a charity for a family donation. Kids can help write notes to grandparents that are treasured more than an expensive gift.

If you like to give lots of gifts (and you have the funds), schedule time to select and wrap them, so that you’re not stressed at the last minute. Spending more than you budgeted for will just create more stress in January, so buy accordingly.

Avoid unrealistic expectations about gifts from your partner. I know men who try very hard to select a romantic gift, only to be rebuffed by their wives. Either tell him exactly what you want, or treasure what he gives you. Anything less is a form of rejection.

Share With Your Partner
Talk to your spouse about your expectations for the holidays (for yourself and for each other). If you feel responsible to create special memories, explain your feelings. If you feel overwhelmed, share why. By connecting with your spouse during the season and sharing how you are feeling, you can help maintain intimacy. Ask for specific help when you need it rather than complaining that you are doing it all alone. Remember the true reason for each holiday you celebrate, for example to give thanks for what we have on Thanksgiving, not to stress out about our home’s décor or cleanliness.

Step one: Schedule time to create your ultimate holiday to-do list with your spouse. With Thanksgiving next week, there’s no time to lose. Do you feel you could make improvements on the amount of joy and comfort in your holiday season? What tips do you have for increased enjoyment of the season?

Photo credit: ©Michah Jared/  

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