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On Parenting
Posted at 01:06 PM ET, 12/05/2011

Managing holiday overload

After forgetting the birthdays of three very close relatives and a milestone birthday of an old friend, snapping at my husband for his innocent question about my progress on the flexible savings account submission, wasting 20 minutes yesterday looking for a parking spot at Target and spending a full pre-dawn hour this morning mentally calculating how I’m going to coordinate the logistics of a week that includes far too many events, I am feeling over the holidays.


The 74-foot-tall Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in New York. (Henny Ray Abrams - AP)
This season there’s just too much to do. Most of the obligations are pleasant — celebrations, performances, gift exchanges, etc. But they come on top of the usual family obligations and not-so-pleasant year-end accounting deadlines.

Add to it that this year, in particular, there’s extra pressure for parents to work longer hours and to stretch more limited resources. Many of us are entering the season already feeling strung-out.

“At this time of year, saying ‘no’ is a highly underrated statement,” said Rachel Strisik, a Bethesda-based professional organizer who helps families. Expecting December to bring out my whirling dervish tendencies, I asked her for some advice on how to try to enjoy the season.

Her advice (below) sounds rather rigid. But, then again, she had me at that “no.”

Plus, the mother of two young twins previously provided advice to “On Parenting” readers on how to make school mornings run more smoothly.

I have adopted, for the most part, her strict routine and it’s helped us get out the door in the morning much more smoothly.

Here’s Strisik’s holiday guidance:

“The family is best off to create a holiday calendar. This helps them decide together what is important and what doesn’t make the cut. Gathering all invitations and making a list is the first step.

Next, the family should rank which of these events are the wisest and best use of their collective time. When faced with a new event, the family should be prepared to remove an otherwise lower-ranked event from the list. If the event does not meet the newly-created family criterion, it is appropriate to graciously say ‘no’...

Declining unnecessary events brings much needed relief to the stress of the season. Families should not feel the need to give an excuse as to why they are not attending. After all, they have made the decision together.

Along with all the obligations that are put on the calendar, it is encouraged to schedule plenty of down time. The family holiday calendar should be placed in a visible spot where everyone can see and review the night before each day. Children, like us, need to feel some degree of predictability and control. Constantly changing plans and unscheduled events increase overall stress.

Finally, honor the family routines. Children of all ages get dragged around from party to party or on shopping trips and these routines are forgotten. Skipping routines is stressful. If the event is on the family calendar it has met the family’s criterion. Prevent family overload for everyone by being organized and planning ahead while also taking care of the overall family’s needs.”

What’s your plan? Would a holiday calendar work for you? What obligations make the cut and what don’t?

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Tags:  holiday stress, family organizing

 
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