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Creating a positive holiday season, one conversation at a time

Let’s be real. No family or event is perfect. The holidays compound your day to day stress and anxiety because there is more happening all at once. You have work pressures, money pressures, family pressures, and the pressures you put on yourself. If you are a parent, you want to make it all “perfect” for your children. What perfect looks like though depends on your life experiences and the values you hold. You may have additional pressures to create something that your parents or in-laws approve of also. These are all pressures you an manage. It’s not easy though.


All the women in my family have the same sign somewhere in our homes. It says, “Put on your big girl panties and deal with it.” One year, we all got them as gifts. They are funny, feminine and so accurate. When I think of hard conversations, that saying always comes to mind. It isn’t easy to tell the people you love that they are disappointing you, making you uncomfortable, or being disrespectful. It’s hard to tell your parents that you will not tolerate their behaviors or ways of communicating with you, your spouse, or your children. However, you deserve to have a holiday experience that is healthy and enjoyable. I encourage you, have conversations and set boundaries. The worst thing that can happen is that you don’t see them during the holidays because they are not willing to respect your boundaries.

Once you have set your foundation up though, it can be helpful to have an idea of what you will be doing as a family over the holidays. Some questions you may need to ask include:

  • Are there certain events you will be attending with your larger family group?

  • If you are traveling, what are the lodging arrangements? You may opt to stay at a hotel with your family to give yourself some downtime when certain family members are visiting or when you start to feel overwhelmed.

  • How many people will attend certain events? Who will be exchanging gifts, as applicable? I know for one side of my family, we buy gifts for the children and then if there is a large gathering of adults, we do a Secret Santa exchange. If we are feeling generous, we will also do $5 stocking stuffers (lotto tickets are popular) for all the adults. Everyone receives a gift, but we spend significantly less that way on the adults. It allows us to set a budget and stick to it as a group.

  • What do we want to experience as a family over the holiday season?

  • How can I help participate in or prepare for the holiday celebrations?

  • Who is hosting or are we meeting somewhere to celebrate the holidays?

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Christy Zuehl

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