The holidays are when families get together more than any other time during the year. It is also a time for listening to Christmas carols on the radio and for everyone to say “Happy Holidays” whenever they see you.
Dr. Judy Kuriansky, more commonly known as Dr. Judy, is a Clinical Psychologist and Relationship Expert. She has given many families advice about how to survive the holidays peacefully as a radio talk show host for over twenty-two years.
Dr. Judy says families need to agree about whose parents to visit, what gifts to buy, and how to resolve long-standing family conflicts. She agreed to let me interview her for Simple Living Family about this subject. Here is her advice:
Karla: How do you decide which side of the family to visit? How can you make the other side understand and not feel left out?
Dr. Judy: It is really important to take turns. As long as your families are reasonable, they will understand. Also take into consideration what the event is. If it is a year when everybody in your family is coming together from all over the country, make a deal with your partner that the next two holidays will be celebrated with their family.
Karla: I have a much larger family than my husband. How should families decide how much money to spend and who to buy for?
Dr. Judy: First thing a couple needs to do is decide on a budget. If your family is gracious they will understand that you have done your very best on your budget. One thing you can do is buy group gifts. For example, buy a family a game everyone can use or a movie ticket for each of them so they can go together. Think about what they are all interested in. If the family has young children, you could buy them something for the playroom or if they really enjoy spending time outside, you could buy them a nice piece of patio furniture.
Karla: Families are a big bundle of different personalities. What is your advice on how to deal with any holiday drama?
Dr. Judy: Simply put, stay out of it. If you are at the event with your partner, pull them aside and vent to them. Realize that it is inevitable during the holidays to be triggered back to your childhood dramas, so find someone to spill it all out to. If you are not attending the event with your partner, find another neutral party and talk it over with them.
Karla: Do you believe strongly in the mental benefits of exercise and staying physically active? It is awfully cold out and it sometimes can feel like another “thing” you have to do.
Dr. Judy: Nobody should say no to this question, but I have to be practical. If exercise is just another thing you feel you need to do and you do not have the time to do it, do not beat yourself up. You can go running more in January. Or do something small like if you have steps in your house or off your deck, run up and down them a few times. Count carrying all those heavy packages as your exercise.
Karla: What other things do you suggest we do to take care of ourselves?
Dr. Judy: Take the pressure off of yourself. Realize that the holidays are stressful and then deal with it. Start early so you do not have the stress from having to do everything last-minute. Assign tasks to other people. If you have an eight year old, have them help you wrap rather than locking yourself in a room and wrapping all night. Take a hard look at your finances and do not feel guilty about it. If your kids are used to more packages, split things up. For example if you have bought your child an outfit with pants and a shirt put the pants in one box and the shirt in another. Make a game out of it. Put different pieces of their gift in different spots and give them clues where to find them. Instead of a material thing, wrap up something symbolic of what you are going to do. For example, wrap up a picture of a bike if you are going to take them on a bike trip to a mountain five miles away.
Karla: How should you handle competing traditions; those both parents grew up with versus new ones you would like to start with your own children?
Dr. Judy: My belief is that parents should teach their children both traditions. As long as both you and your partner care about passing them on, you should. For example, if one parent is Catholic and one parent is Jewish you should have both a Christmas tree and a menorah. By having both, you are enriching your child’s life. Never let your traditions compete.
Karla: I often say that the holidays are all about the kids. Do you have any advice on how to make the season as joyous as possible for children?
Dr. Judy: Kids need to understand that they are loved and cherished every day. When you say things like, “This is going to be the best time of year,” it really sets up expectations. Try to tone down that kind of speak and spread the goodies out over the entire year.
Karla: As a family, how do you decide what is important to you and kindly decline your other invitations?
Dr. Judy: Decide together about whose needs are the greatest; also about where they want to go and why. One little boy really wanted to go to the zoo and his little sister did not understand why they had to go. It was a great learning experience for her about why it is important to do things that are really important to others.
Karla: When the baking, cooking, decorating, shopping, wrapping, and house cleaning feels completely overwhelming, what do you suggest we do to manage the stress?
Dr. Judy: Cut back. Too many people go overboard this time of year. You do not have to do everything. Things have gotten too complicated. It does not mean you love your family less. Ask family members to help. Negotiate with them about what they can bring, such as a dessert. Tell them if they would be willing to bring a dish, it would be instead of a gift.
Karla: How can you teach your children about the spirit of the holidays rather than let them focus on the material side?
Dr. Judy: Read stories and watch videos about the spirit of the holidays and discuss them afterwards. Ask your children what their expectations are and have a real conversation with them about what they are thinking and feeling. You might be surprised by what their favorite parts of the season really are.
For more advice from Dr. Judy on this topic and many others, please see her website at www.DrJudy.com.
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