The answer is simple. Not easy, but simple. And it doesn't require you to do one more task during this busy time! Your most important job now is the mood you set in your home. What your child wants this holiday season is meaning and connection, not perfect decorations, or lots of events, or even, ultimately, presents. Your kids need you to be in a good mood, ready to make merry and make meaning.
So here's your holiday challenge: Manage your own mood!
1. Ruthlessly Under-Schedule
You can't stay in a good mood if you're rushed and distracted. Give yourself more inner resources to self-regulate by giving yourself time to breathe and enjoy.
2. Only do holiday tasks with your child or partner.
If you like nothing better than to put on music and fill the house with good smells, then I wish you happy baking. But don’t set yourself up to feel like a martyr at midnight, when you find yourself bleary-eyed and facing a sink full of dirty dishes. Always find a partner for these holiday tasks. If you can’t recruit anyone, consider that maybe you don’t actually need to do more decorating, or baking, or whatever, if it isn’t important to anyone else. Who are you trying to impress, after all? If your kids are too young to help, then it becomes even more important to limit what you do.
3. Expect Things to be Perfectly Imperfect
Don’t try to create some glossy magazine vision of the holiday. Keep it simple. And you can expect your children to act like children. Today is not the day to try to change your child. Accept them for who they are, where they are right now, and love them right through it!
Remember that you will mess up. You have permission to simply let that self-criticism dissolve. Just give yourself a hug and some extra love to refill your own cup, and get yourself back into a state of well-being.
Then, make a repair with your loved one, and press re-set on the tone in your home. This is hard work. Your children don't need you to be perfect. They need you to model how to be a compassionate human being, and when things go wrong, how to repair and reconnect.
In parenting, your mood matters more to your kids than anything else. Most of all, the impression they're taking with them of their childhood is how they felt -- and that has a lot to do with how you feel, and how you relate to them. As Maya Angelou famously said, "People will forget what you said, and people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
How will your child feel after this holiday?