Where has the year gone?! To many parents, getting ready for the holidays is like preparing for a marathon. They’re not quite sure they have enough time to get ready—or if they want to run that far.
For parents, holiday preparations add another layer to their already busy lives. Don’t most parents want life to simplify—rather than become more complex? If you’re not careful, getting ready for the holidays can push you over the edge.
That’s why in our family, we follow these five keys to getting ready for the holidays.
Key #1: Do more of what you like, less of what you don’t.
Too many families try to do it all. Instead, focus on what you enjoy doing. Cut the rest. In our family, we have two people who love to bake. They do that. The other two of us keep far from the kitchen. (That’s better for everybody involved.) Our family also enjoys putting together a holiday letter with stories and photos. We decorate our home the day after Thanksgiving (and if something isn’t up by the end of the day, that’s as much as we’ll do). Three of us prefer curling up by the fireplace and reading a good book. Another family member enjoys holiday parties and socializing. Holidays mean more when you’re doing activities you really enjoy.
Key #2: Make a holiday calendar.
Take out your calendar and write in your holiday preparations. That includes shopping, baking, wrapping gifts, going to holiday events, making a holiday letter, volunteering, dinners, parties, and anything else you may do for the holidays. If you don’t plot these events on the calendar, it’s too easy to overestimate how much you can get done within a short amount of time.
Key #3: Set gift list and shopping deadlines.
Kids are impulsive, which means they’ll see something the day before a holiday, ask for it, and then expect to get it. The younger the child, the more likely the child thinks this way. Even with preschoolers, you can set deadlines for their gift lists. If they see items they wish to receive after the deadline, they can create a new wish list for the future. This teaches kids to plan, to see that the holidays are more than just what they want, and how to wait. Set shopping deadlines as well. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself battling the crowds at the last minute.
Key #4: Enlist everyone to help.
In too many families, one person gets stuck doing most of the holiday preparations. That’s not fair. Everyone should be involved. If it’s too hard for everyone to work together, divide up tasks so that everyone pitches in. Young children can wrap presents. These parents will not look professionally wrapped, but I loved receiving a gift from my toddler that was especially wrapped by him.
Key #5: Do a special family activity.
Take time to do at least one special family activity during the holidays. Attend a free concert. Go sledding. Play a card game or a board game. Watch a holiday movie together. Make popcorn strings. Do a craft together. Play a chase game through the house. (Call it reindeer chase in honor of the holidays or the winter season.) Do something together that’s fun.
Make the time getting ready for the holidays something everyone enjoys—not something everyone dreads. The holidays (and the time marching up to the holidays) will be more meaningful when you squeeze the most out of each day, doing what you enjoy most.
American Academy of Pediatrics, Holiday Safety Tips, November 1, 2009.
Deborah Carroll, “Nanny 911: Parenting During the Holidays,” The Washington Post, December 22, 2005.
Jean Lawrence, “Parenting Tips for the Holidays,” WebMD, November 16, 2004.
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