November 17

Making Family Holidays Fun, Not Stressful!

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Making Family Holidays Fun, Not Stressful!


Family Holidays

There is no magic bullet for always making family holidays fun, but we have some tips to make them less stressful and more enjoyable! Both Greg and I have experienced quite a few family holidays together as we have been married for a number of years. So at this stage of our lives, we’d definitely like to enjoy each holiday or celebration to the fullest! The years seem to pass quicker the older we get. (See Holiday Memories from last year!) 

We add stress when our expectations rise beyond what the realistic situation may be. Ideally, we’d love all our kids and spouses to gather on major holidays, but we have some obstacles. One of our sons is a first responder and his schedule changes often. Another son recently moved across the country, making travel more difficult. The third is in northern California to our southern. We’ve decided we want to make the holidays fun for whomever is here. So we reach out to see what will work for them.

In this article, we will talk about four main principles that may help you in your planning. One: Define realistic expectations. Two: Plan the fun for you and your guests. Three: Make it simple and Four: Make it memorable with memory stickers.

Women at Halftime by Deborah Johnson Making Family Holidays Fun, Not Stressful! 11-17-20
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One: Define Realistic Expectations

What do you want to accomplish? One of our main goals for the holidays is getting our family together to keep them connected. Holidays give the opportunity to renew relationships. However, I know for many this may be very difficult because of personality conflicts and past hurts.

I would urge you to not set your goals so high as to be disappointed, but still communicate the importance and the anticipation of getting together. As you focus more on renewing relationships instead of restoring relationships (for which we placed more emphasis on while raising our sons) it takes the pressure off of the day. An idea would be to set some ground rules for all attendees if there has been a great deal of conflict in the past. (see article: Raising Adult Children)

We do proactively contact all our family members. Because we are now the matriarch and patriarch of our families, we do our best to communicate with all parties involved. This is no time for us to hold grudges! Also, we don’t need to self-host. We are fine with others hosting but work at communicating regularly.

Two: Plan the Fun

This is an attitude that makes the holidays even more fun for our family. Greg and I want to enjoy the day for ourselves, not just provide enjoyment for others. This may seem selfish for some, but it’s not. If you are having fun, most likely others will be having fun as well. And it takes the pressure off to try to please everyone else.

For Greg’s family, there would usually be a time to play tape-ball. The game included a regular baseball bat and a ball made of wadded newspaper and duct tape. Behind their family home was a canyon. One can only guess how many tape balls have been hit out and became part of the landfill in that canyon. Basketball would also be a part of the activities with the guys. And I can’t leave out my one niece on that side, who could run circles around many of the guys.

These activities seemed impromptu, but actually became part of the tradition. Coming from a family of non-athletic girls, I usually incorporated more project-centered activities. When we decided to put up a second large Christmas Tree one year in our home, everyone got involved, which made it super-easy for me! Our tree never looked so beautiful! The hardest part was when Greg & I had to take it down by ourselves after Christmas!

Three: Make it Simple

For some families, food takes center stage. Food is important at family holidays, but make it as easy as possible on yourself, especially if you are hosting. I tend to be challenged when trying to serve all the dishes at once so I try to plan what I can handle by myself. Growing up with sisters, we’d always go and pitch in with my mom but it was different in our home.

With raising sons, when they are out playing tape-ball or basketball, some may think they should stop everything and help their mother or whomever is in the kitchen. But for me, it was more important that they hang out together, then I let them know they can do the dishes! (which they usually do!)

That principle has become even more important with adult kids. As our kids are now not living close to each other, we want them to spend time together when they can, so I have been working on doing as much pre-prep as possible and creating simple easy-to serve meals so I can also enjoy the festivities. I learned very fast that I’m not going to attempt a recipe from Bon Appetit on a holiday! Although, I can see that many of their recipes have become simpler.

That principle has become even more important with adult kids. As our kids are now not living close to each other, we want them to spend time together when they can, so I have been working on doing as much pre-prep as possible and creating simple easy-to serve meals so I can also enjoy the festivities. I learned very fast that I’m not going to attempt a recipe from Bon Appetit on a holiday! Although, I can see that many of their recipes have become simpler.

Christmas Devotional-Deborah Johnson

Four: Make it Meaningful

Some holidays become more meaningful because of an unexpected event. The in-laws that get stuck in traffic or lost, the crying babies that won’t nap. They don’t seem as annoying a year or two removed. But try some new things that can create as many good memory stickers as possible.

Christmas Songs

One of those memories can be created by singing carols together or telling a story. You may even want to use a story in the free Christmas Devotional. One year, we had all our kids on my side of the family present a talent show for their grandparents. The two 3-year-olds who sang solos were an absolute hit and we will never forget that memory. (Those 3-year-olds ended up doing vocal studio work and getting a record contract!) See Christmas Songs

As we get older, we realize we have a certain number of holidays left to celebrate with our family and we don’t want to lose those opportunities. Look for other times of the year to get the whole family together if it doesn’t happen on a holiday. The important principle here is you have to make the time and be intentional. It takes work to make family holidays happen and extra work to make them meaningful. Remember, you don’t have to invite everyone. This year especially with the isolation everyone has experienced with COVID, you will have that excuse!

Make the holidays as fun and meaningful for you. Snap plenty of pictures, take time to enjoy people and create memories that you will enjoy looking back on for years to come. That will be a beautiful gift to yourself.

If you are interested in growing and learning, check out our online courses here: Online Learning

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About the Author

DEBORAH JOHNSON, M.A., creator of Hero Mountain™® and past President of Los Angeles National Speakers Association, is an international award-winning music artist, author, speaker and National Media Commentator. Deborah provides principles to produce a successful second half, creating momentum and getting unstuck, reaching expansive goals and a desired lifestyle. Up for multiple GRAMMY Awards and spending over 20 years in the entertainment industry, she's an expert on how to constantly reinvent yourself in a gig-economy. She is also the recipient of the 2018 Women's Economic Forum Exceptional Women of Excellence Award. Deborah is the author of 4 books and speaks and performs in both live and virtual events.


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