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Helping Your Family Find ‘Normal’ During The Holiday Chaos

calendar overloadMy confession, I’m a tri-athlete who hasn’t been training as much as I’d like lately.

Second confession, we started a job list and commission program to teach the girls about money and it isn’t being kept up.

Consistency is hard work. Just when I feel we are getting consistent and our plan is working, something interrupts it. In my case, I’ve really struggled keeping my exercise routine in the midst of a bunch of travel. As far as the commission list, it was working great, but then we started school this fall and in our business it kind of fell apart.

I just reviewed my calendar for the next few months and the one thing I can predict is that it’s going to be hard to be consistent. It’s going to be nearly impossible to find our rhythm as a family because of parties, church programs, vacations, travel, and a whole host of other fun things.

Kids crave two things. Consistency and inconsistency. A predictable environment feels safe, reduces anxiety, and helps develop cause-and-effect thinking. Inconsistency is fun. Most kids love the fun and excitement of doing something inconsistent. Try setting up a picnic in the living room for supper tonight and my guess is that your kids will be surprised and most likely really enjoy the absurd inconsistency of it. Too much consistency creates rigidity, and too much inconsistency creates anxiety.

So, as a parent, we have the joy of trying to balance both the need for consistency and for inconsistency.

During the holidays, inconsistency will no doubt have a natural advantage. This is the time of year in which we eat pie for breakfast, candy at church, and bed time is a range. It probably is a time when we need to work hard at restoring some semblance of normal. There are other times in the year when we’d be well served to break up the monotony by adding spontaneity and disorder into our lives.

Here are a couple of suggestions for keeping things in balance over the next few months.

  1. Accept that it is out of control! Things aren’t going to always be ideal and there is a lot out of our control. This doesn’t mean we don’t try, it simply means that more flexibility is required.
  2. Prepare ahead. One of the best ways to increase exercise in the morning is to set your stuff out the night before. That way, you have less decisions to make and are more likely to get out. The same principle can work for your family. Preparing ahead allows you to get something done as a family, even if you only have a short amount of time.
  3. Set priorities. It is easy to get in the trap of doing things just because they are traditions or you feel obligated. Instead, focus on a couple of priorities for each of you. Because we have different personalities, you may have conflicting priorities. Some may want quiet family time while others want a party. Sharing priorities helps us balance each other and sets the stage for step 4.
  4. Set some boundaries for your kids and yourself. They can’t do everything or be everywhere and neither can you. Sit down with your kids and plan your priorities and get them on the calendar.
  5. Schedule down time and family time. Just like step three where you scheduled the zoo lights and Christmas program, schedule times which you save for your family and don’t program those times, just use them as times to catch up and be together, but apart from the holiday business.
  6. Get back up! Parenting requires us to make adjustments and get back in the game. I’m surprised how many times I feel discouraged and don’t want to go run or swim because I missed some workouts and am behind in my training. It takes a lot of effort to get moving again, and it is even harder when getting moving involves the whole family. The best antidote to resistance is to just start.

Question: How do you maintain some semblance of ‘normal’ during the holidays?