Has your desire to experience the “perfect” holiday ever let you down? I learned the hard way that my idealized view of the holidays needed serious adjustment to meet up with reality. I expected everyone to be on their best behavior (myself included!), but I left disappointed year after year. There was always a family member we displeased, a kid that acted out, or a meal that didn’t go as planned.
Despite my thinking that holidays should be magical days in honor of the celebrations, we all have the same downfalls, habits, and irritations, even on holidays—especially on holidays. The heightened sense of the need for a perfect day can intensify the drama. So let’s look at a few ways to prepare ourselves to offer one another grace during the holidays as we gather together with friends and family.
1. Be prepared to offer forgiveness.
Somebody will probably hurt your feelings, whether on purpose or by accident. Go into the holidays with an open heart, full of grace, and ready to forgive quickly.
2. People’s character doesn’t change just because it’s a holiday.
There’s usually at least one in the bunch, a friend or relative, that bothers you. Maybe it’s their political views, negative attitude, or judgment they offer about your life choices. Remember tip number one!
3. Equip your children with tools for success.
Holidays lend themselves to overstimulation—the extra people, noise level, activities, and baked goods. Teach your kids to notice their internal symptoms of overstimulation if they’re old enough. If they’re too young for this, monitor them yourself. Provide breaks outside or in a quiet room and limit their intake of treats and sugary drinks.
4. Clearly define expectations.
This one has been vital for success with my family. Take some time to ask everyone what they envision for having a pleasant holiday. Hashing this out ahead of time will help manage everyone’s expectations.
5. Be flexible.
It’s highly likely that everything you plan will not go as expected. Prepare yourself ahead of time to be flexible, offer grace, and meet the needs of others.
6. Look for opportunities to love others well.
Instead of focusing on your expectations, approach the holidays as a time you can selflessly serve and extravagantly love your friends and family.
7. Be grateful.
Let’s get back to the root of the holidays, a time to be thankful for whatever you’re celebrating—friends, family, Jesus’ birth, God’s faithfulness, or the opportunity to start anew.