As we move into the holidays the image of gathering with family, snow, presents, kids playing, and a copious amount of food is the “normal” picture we all see from the outside view. What we don’t talk about is the struggles involved with the holidays, parenting, the financial struggle, the possibility of friction with other family members, or not having family or your children around. This year especially our holidays look very different and potentially stressful with the troublesome COVID-19.
The question is what does this holiday season look like for you, and what are you doing to take care of yourself? What are you doing to stay connected?
Taking care of ourselves is something that we don’t always make time for around the holidays because we become very busy. We have less patience with our children, and family members due to stress. We don’t eat correctly, or drink enough water due to other tasks taking priority. Then we think about the families that are affected by different barriers like not having their children due to DCYF involvement, or having a broken family and the other parent has the children for the holiday.
The Oxford Dictionaries states that self-care is, “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own wellbeing and happiness, in particular periods of stress.” Self-care looks different for everyone. What works for one person, might not work for another. It also means that something that you normally utilized as self-care might not be as effective as it once was, this is a direct result of the fact that self-care is something that changes as we grow and evolve. It is important to embrace and honor your growth and adjust your self-care accordingly.
When you think about self-care what do you picture? Getting your nails done, drinking enough water, getting a massage, eating healthy, going to bed early? Those things are important, but self-care can be so much more than that. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to utilize self-care. It can be showering for an extra 10 minutes, it can be not answering a phone call or text, creating healthy boundaries, and knowing your limits when it comes to stress. It can also be, hugging your children, and watching funny videos, and movies. The beauty of self-care is you get to decide what works best for you!
As fun and happy as it can be, the holidays can also be stressful, and overwhelming. So how do we manage that? What can that look like? It can look like taking some breaths, and gaining a new perspective on a situation before responding. It can look like walking away from a potentially stressful situation. It can also look like not stressing over burnt turkey or dinner rolls. I know it is easier said than done, but try to drop expectations of the “perfect holiday”. Being optimistic yet realistic creates a mindset that enables you to be less upset if things don’t happen according to plan. Remembering that we don’t always have control over how things go, but we do have control over how we react to them!
Connection plays a huge part in us feeling whole, it keeps us from feeling isolated. Connection with our families around the holidays helps give us that “holiday spirit”. The very frustrating COVID-19 can take away that feeling of connection and possibly adds a whole new layer to the “traditional” holiday celebration. Due to restrictions put in place to help stop the spread, the number of people able to gather seems to be getting smaller by the week. So how do we be stay connected and try to make things as normal as we can? Again, this brings us back to the fact that we can’t control the situation, but we can control how we respond to it. In the world we live in today we have been given the gift of technology. We can use FaceTime, Zoom, and other virtual platforms to connect with our family. Consider setting up a computer and inviting family members to pop in and out while you cook dinner. The other new trend people are currently utilizing through virtual platforms is a movie night, or game night. Streaming a movie on your computer and sharing your screen so you can laugh and watch your favorite holiday movie together can be a nice alternative.
If you want to share your holiday highlights without overloading your social media platforms, consider downloading a private photo and video sharing app. It enables you to add family members to the app so they can still enjoy all those special moments in a safe and socially distanced way. We all look forward to the delicious food during the holidays, consider taking great grandmas traditional cookie recipe and making them together with family over virtual platforms to see who can make them just the Grandma did. When you send out your holiday cards this year, be creative. Maybe consider adding a personal touch like a hand written letter, or sending a USB drive loaded with pictures through the year.
The ability to have a “normal” holiday this year might not be in the cards for everyone for one reason or another, what we do have the ability to do is be creative. Creativity is the intelligence of having fun! Use your creativity to stay connected and still keep your holiday traditions. Be aware of stressors and how you respond, and what self-care techniques work for you. Lastly, try to drop the expectations of what the holiday should look like and make it your own!
Written by Tina Holmes, Parent Partner, The Family Resource Center
Family Support New Hampshire acts to bring together the diverse leadership from existing and newly forming family resource centers and family support programs within New Hampshire under the common vision of establishing a statewide network of family support practice within New Hampshire.
NHCT strives to ensure parents have access to high-quality resources and support to help children develop through education of direct-service professionals, advocacy for better policies to support parents, and connection with local agencies to strengthen families and lay the foundation for children's success.