By: Pam and Bill Farrel
While simplifying your holiday season, take time for relationships to thrive, not just survive the holidays. Keep those relationships balanced with your holiday planning. People ARE more important than things at this time of year. The majority of people when asked what makes Christmas feel more meaningful, say it is time spent with those they love, worshipping the God that loves them! But the holiday season can also be a stressful one. Our counseling load always goes up, because people and their relationships are imperfect, but we often want our celebration time to be picture perfect.
Let’s toss out the glossy trappings of the magazine spreads and follow God’s example of making sending love the core of the holiday. God loved humankind so much he sent love wrapped in the form of the sinless babe in the manger to bring hope and help to all relationships.
Here are some relationship principles using the letters of C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S.! as an easy to apply acrostic:
1. Center your heart on the true, deeper meaning of the holiday season (Thanksgiving through New Year’s).
This will help everyone become easier to get along with because the heart of the holiday will remain intact. Look for Church Christmas plays, cantatas, festivals of lights, or children’s programs that are often free or a small donation to attend yet add deeper meaning, reflection and joy to the season. One of our great joys is passing a flame from generation to generation at our church’s candlelight service.
2. Hear what your friends and family are voicing as their stress, and listen carefully to them.
Listening is a gift that will lower stress—and jumping in to help will too.
3. Reach out as a family to help others in order to keep the proper perspective on what is really important in life.
Our family each gives a gift to Jesus, and the last gift we open is one we lay at the manger. We like to surprise each other with what we do to help, give time or talent or treasure to a church, non-profit, missionary or needy family.
4. Invest in memories, not material goods.
Make time for family baking, tree decorating, or board games. Look for activities that the entire family across the generations might participate in. Begin (or keep up) traditions. Children raised in families where traditions form a strong family identity make wiser choices when away from family.
5. Speak your love in words.
The best gift you can give is for a person to hear their value and worth from your lips. One year, all our sons were struggling college students, so instead of spending money on a gift for me I asked them to give me words that would make me cry. Each read a tribute letter, and my husband had them framed and they hang in my office to this day.
6. Take time for romance.
The greatest gift you can give your spouse, children, and friends is a happy home. This holiday season, I am running a Red Hot Wife Challenge and wives can sign up for a daily email with ideas from my book Red Hot Romance Tips for Women. From Thanksgiving to the New Year, we will practice the 26 traits of a more loving wife. Small kindnesses can fan the flame on love and romance.
7. Make time to reach out to extended family.
Visit or call grandparents, aunts, and uncles. If possible, use modern technology like a webcam, Skype, or Facetime to connect. It is also fun to film short video clips and post on Facebook or text to loved ones far away so they feel a part of your family celebration. There are also electronic photo frames you can upload photos to that automatically show a slide show—and some can continually be updated. Stop in at a technology store for ideas on staying in touch with far flung family.
8. Assume nothing.
Ask those who are celebrating with you what their expectations are, and communicate the plan clearly so people feel informed. A simple question to use might be, “What one thing would make it feel like Christmas while we are together?” Or, “If you could plan two hours of our time together, what would you want to do with those hours?” This often sheds great insight to what each family member is looking forward to doing or how they view rest or relaxation over the holiday season.
9. Stay flexible.
Don’t be a Christmas Scrooge, ordering family around. Instead slow the pace, gather consensus, and give options so that you create an environment of connecting and sharing. Try not to over schedule. Plan in extra time just to move the group from pace to place at a relaxed pace. (Plan on adding 5 minutes more for each person in the group. For example if it takes you 2 minutes to grab the keys to get to the car, it can take your family closer to 10-20).
Exclaim your joy with music, memories and by making the most of all your relationships! Much merriment can be free or nearly free. For inexpensive ideas, search the internet for “free Christmas ideas” or “inexpensive Christmas ideas.” Pinterest is packed with simple memory making ideas and activities. The best path to know what to do to make your family time special is to talk to the God who created your family. Stay in a conversation with God. Pray your way through the holidays with a simple line we suggest in our book, Secret Language of Successful Couples: “Lord, show me what to say, show me what to do. Show me what to not say, show me what to not do.” The Holy Spirit is the best relationship decoder, God created each person you love, so God can direct you how to best love them, moment by precious moment.