Original article at https://foreverymom.com/society/holidays/5-simple-ways-to-make-this-holiday-season-the-best-your-family-has-ever-had/

It’s that time of year again and let’s be real, for many of us, the holidays are scary as we know that our expectations will be dashed with chaos, frustration and more of what we do not need: busyness. So what if instead of being bogged down by crazy schedules, stress, and materialistic priorities, we made a plan to ensure this holiday season would be awesome?

As a father of two daughters, who are now teenagers, I knew in the early days of parenting I was going to have to set the culture of what it looked like to have a successful holiday season. The last thing I wanted was two ungrateful kids on Christmas morning, and I knew that it was my responsibility to make sure that did not happen.

Here’s the blueprint on how to make this holiday season the best your family has ever had.

Step One: Set Your Goals and Intentions for the Season

Start this process by writing down what you want from the holidays. This tip may seem like yet another task to complete, but trust me on this, take five to ten minutes and process what a good holiday season will look like for you. A 2015 study published in Forbes reports that you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if they are written down. Documenting your goals will help you visualize a better way to handle the holidays. The more intentional you are today, the more joy you will experience tomorrow.

I know, it’s the holidays and we don’t want to consider what we will regret, or what could go wrong. We want to be cheerful, sip hot cocoa, and listen to Christmas music that includes snowmen, flying reindeer and Santa coming down the chimney. But that’s why all of is important. We want the holidays to be filled with memories that will be cherished, and if we’re going to succeed, we have to begin with the end goal in mind.

So, ask yourself, what will you regret?

  1. Kids, who are not thankful
  2. Family arguments that leave you frustrated and discouraged

3.Schedules of mass chaos and confusion

4.Debt that will set you back for years

Now, imagine for a moment what your holiday season COULD BE:

* Fun parties that you love and bring life

* Kids who understand the season, and while they love their material gifts, they also understand empathy, compassion and the importance of generosity

* Family gatherings that focus on what is good and stay away from disagreements that could cause chaos and anger

I could go on and on, but… here’s the thing… it is possible to have a great holiday season. It will require some effort up front, but if the work is done, the holiday season can be meaningful and lifegiving.

Step Two: Create Learning Moments

Oftentimes, we don’t take time to slow down and really process what we want or need. Speed can be the enemy of living a fulfilled life. On many levels, the holidays are meant to remind us of what is good and beautiful. It should be a time to re-center, yet it’s often a time where all the goodness is shattered because we move so fast and forget what we really want or need. It is important during the holidays to slow down and create learning moments for you and your family.

So what is a learning moment? It’s a time where we allow for something bigger than ourselves to help us focus on the greater good. Example: Yes, your kids are excited that they MIGHT get that epic present that they crave, but we all know that moment is fleeting and won’t be remembered… so create a learning moment there by having an intentional conversation about WHY the holiday season is so important. Those are the moments that shape our character, and bring true joy to the season. Here are some intentional ways to cultivate learning moments…

*Write a letter to the child you sponsor, and use that moment to teach your kids about poverty, suffering, and injustice in the world.

*Throw a party and at that party take a moment where you each say what you’re thankful for.

*Schedule a time to connect with your favorite people, your friends and family who bring joy to you. Maybe you give them a specific gift, share a meal, or share a story of why they matter to you and why you’re grateful for them.

Step Three: Be Generous

In January, will you regret giving to organizations that you love and care for? I would assume not, so… plan your giving before you plan your gift purchases. For many, this is no doubt a luxury, but remember, both small and big gifts make a real difference in the world. Giving is another great opportunity to create those learning moments with your family or friend group. This is no doubt a great way to reset the holiday season and make sure we prioritize giving over receiving, and that we contribute more than we consume.

Step Four: Show Up and Serve Hard 

The holidays are a really difficult time for many people. Holiday TV shows and movies will frame each moment as perfect and picturesque: snow falling, fire crackling and a brand new Lexus waiting for you on your driveway come Christmas morning. But for many, that expectation is not their reality. For the most vulnerable in our communities, Christmas is just a reminder of how tragically life has played out. People endure various degrees of suffering, whether it’s little to no access to food, or the disappointment of not receiving any gifts, so we as neighbors need to show up and show love for those who suffer.

This holiday season, you can show up and make a massive difference in someone’s life. Consider all the people you encounter day to day: the single mom, the orphaned child, the homeless and the hurting. Once again, you can navigate the holidays to make them meaningful simply by choosing to serve in a way that makes sense for you. You can partner with a local organization, your church, or someone you may personally know in need of assistance. You can give your time, but you can also rally your community. Together you can show up in force, do good and really commit to generosity and making a meaningful difference in the lives’ of others.

Step Five: Show Up to the Important

I was having a conversation with my teenage daughter, and she told me one of the greatest things she learned in the last two years was how to say no. She realized that if she can set boundaries and be firm in her convictions, she can not only be a good friend and classmate, but she can also have a clear vision of how she uses her time and emotional energy.

The lesson here is simple: set boundaries this season, and let those boundaries guide your decisions. If you do this well, you will show up to the most important parties and events, and you will learn to accept that you cannot please every person who invites you to their party. We have to manage our yes’s so when we show up, we can add value, be present and find joy. Plan those priorities first, and fight to make sure you can show up and enjoy those moments.

Start Planning Now

Maybe the moral of this story is simple: you have more control than you think. If you spend a few moments planning and prioritizing what’s important, you won’t wake up January 2nd with debt and regret. Instead, you will wake up with gratitude, wonderful memories and the comfort of knowing that you navigated the holidays well. You served those who needed you, you created learning  moments along the way, you were generous and contributed to those who were less fortunate, and you said yes to what mattered the most. This scenario is possible, start planning right now!

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