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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Well, as I’m writing this, it’s nearly 50 degrees and raining so it seems more like Easter but all the festive lights and trees and inflatable yard decorations would suggest otherwise. This, the most wonderful time of the year, with all its glitter and fruitcake, also brings more than its share of stress. Here are a few common holiday problems and tips for handling them.

Problem #1:

The holiday season brings out the best in humanity—generosity, gift giving, random acts of kindness. But holiday recitals, concerts, and other peopley events can bring out the darker side of human nature.

Crowded parking lots, stores, and audiences seem to trigger our fight or flight response, so instead of kindness, we see random acts of road rage and snark. Maybe it’s because we are all just so darn excited to pick up that whicker reindeer for Aunt Thelma that we can’t tolerate the thought of being held up by another person or vehicle. But here’s the thing…everyone wants to get into or out of that store, parking lot, or recital hall just as much as you do. There is no need to flip the bird, mutter obscenities, or give the stink eye. Your aggressive response will only create more of the same. Take a slow deep breath (watch out for germs!) count to 10, put a smile on your face (it’s definitely okay to fake it here), and move toward the exit with as much kindness as you can muster.

Problem #2:

Over-sugared, under-napped children are everywhere this time of year.

Our schedules are jacked up and everyone and their grandmas are giving your kids candy and cookies and hot chocolate. O Holy Night! This is the perfect recipe for meltdowns, power struggles, and parents hiding in the coat closet with cocktails. Since they’re going to find you there within a few minutes anyway, here are some ideas for dealing with this holiday issue. First, try to maintain your kids’ typical schedule of sleeping and eating. Let them have the treats but in small quantities at a time. When the sugar-high reaches its peak, give them a break from all the noise and chaos. A few minutes outside, a cuddle, or a short walk can help them re-regulate their little systems. Talk about your expectations for behavior before you get to gatherings or parties. And if none of that works, scope out the nearest closet and head for cover!

Problem #3:

This time of year can be exceptionally difficult for those grieving loved ones.

If grief is impacting you or someone close to you, know that it’s normal for it to be more present now than it was even a few weeks ago. Let yourself feel what you feel—anger, sadness, fear, resentment—it’s all normal. Stay busy but allow for some downtime. You don’t have to be the embodiment of holiday cheer this year or even next. Spend time with others when possible, loneliness enhances grief like nothing else can. The key is to start creating new traditions with family and friends while still taking time to honor memories of the past. Seek additional support from a counselor or the pastor at your church if grief is overwhelming you this holiday season.

Problem #4:

You’re hosting dinner and Uncle Jim starts talking politics over the Christmas ham.

For some families, a good heated debate is the main course and something to be enjoyed but for others, this can get ugly. There are options. You can change the subject. Pinch the baby. Spill your drink on the person sitting next to you. Or, you could take the more assertive approach and tell Uncle Jim that this might not be the best time to bring up that topic and then start retelling the story of (insert your family’s favorite hilarious memory here).

Problem #5:

Subscribe to Nikki's blogThe season of giving, while fun for the kids, tends to give adults heartburn.

Many issues pop up regarding holiday gift giving. Exchanges with people you barely know, insufficient funds, overspending, the kids wanting what you can’t afford but thinking Santa can make anything in his workshop. Thanks, Santa. Thanks a lot. As you finish your shopping this year, here’s a test to keep in mind. Ask your kids what they got for Christmas last year. Do you remember what you got? You will probably remember a few things but most of the gifts we receive bring us just a few moments of joy before fading from our memories. Putting pressure on yourself to buy the perfect gift for everyone is unnecessary stress and wasted energy. Going into the New Year with debt isn’t worth it for gifts that will likely be forgotten. So be thoughtful, but stay within your budget. A little hint: Gifts that bark are generally quite memorable.

Happy holidays and thanks for reading!

See you next year,

Nikki