Christmas can be a magical time. The decorations, the birth of Jesus, the gifts and wide eyes of children everywhere. However, Christmas can also be a time filled with stress and arguments and family drama.
How can we prevent the drama this year?
Expectations. Setting expectations is a crucial aspect to making every holiday event or gathering a little bit better.
Here are some key things to remember when setting expectations for yourself or with your family this Christmas.
Talk about it!
The best way to set and manage expectations regarding time with your family is to openly talk about things with your family members. This takes courage! It’s not easy to express what you’re feeling. It’s not easy to speak honestly and transparently. But if we can summon enough bravery to say the things that need to be said, we can set ourselves up for a beautiful holiday with few emotional surprises. Conversation is the key to making the holidays great. Take a risk. Talk it out.
Don’t be afraid to express your needs. So often when confronted with challenging circumstances, we put our needs last. We hide what we’re truly feeling to keep the peace. When setting expectations for a holiday gathering with family, fight your fear and express in a reasonable and calm manner what you need for the day to go well. Many times people are unaware of what others need and when they know, they can adjust their own behavior to be helpful. Sometimes we don’t know what we need. Take time to think about it carefully and then tell your loved ones how they can help you have a good time.
As a society, we do not always do a good job of listening. We are too busy forming responses while other are talking. We think of other questions to ask instead of truly hearing what someone is saying. We get defensive if what we hear hurts or angers us. And family? They can really push our buttons! Sometimes we completely shut down and turn our listening ears off, but authentic listening opens windows to the soul. Hearing the heart of your family member will bring health and healing to relationships that have been suffering for years. The holidays can be renewed by this simple act. Listening well can help us hear what our loved ones expect for a great holiday and be the Christmas miracle we all need.
No matter what we do to make the holidays a pleasant experience, sometimes our dear family members cannot comply. If this happens over and over again, setting our holiday expectations may include setting emotional boundaries which cannot be crossed. These could be verbalized to the family or maybe they remain private. Either way, setting these boundaries will help us in measuring situations and protecting ourselves from potentially mentally and emotionally harmful circumstances. Long before a boundary is crossed, we can either confront the situation or remove ourselves in order to protect the sanctity of the holiday. Planning all this in advance as we set our expectations will give us exactly the tools we need.
Focus on what really matters
When holiday emotions are running high, when the uncles have had too much to drink, and when the kids are running around using their outside voices inside, finding a calm place to focus on what really matters during the holidays will be essential. Some advance preparation for the tense moments will help us all to remember the reason for the season. Expecting times of frustration and planning our response will help us remain calm in challenging moments of family conflict. Remembering Christmas is about God’s love for us and the love we share together as a family will get us through.
Setting expectations for the holidays, especially with our family members, may be important for everyone to have a good experience. Taking a little time before the holidays to think about what we expect from ourselves and from our family members will go a long way towards making our Christmas gatherings the very best they can be.