Welcome back to another episode of our podcast! If you're a new listener, a warm welcome to you. I'm thrilled to have you join our community. As we dive into this episode, I can't help but acknowledge that we're right in the midst of the holiday season. Fall is winding down here in the northern hemisphere, and we're gearing up for Thanksgiving in the United States, followed by all the festivities in December.

For many of us, the holiday season can be challenging for various reasons. I've personally found it to be a demanding time, especially as I tend to hit the burnout phase by mid-November. I'm sure many of you can relate to that overwhelming feeling. So, today, I want to share some insights and strategies I've been implementing over the years to make this time of year more enjoyable and less stressful.

One key lesson I've learned is the importance of managing expectations. We often have an idealized vision of how we want the holidays to unfold, but reality doesn't always align with those expectations. It's like those memes comparing Instagram-worthy moments to the actual, sometimes chaotic, reality. So, I've started having proactive conversations with my immediate family before the holiday season kicks off. I ask each member about their priorities, what they love about this time of year, and what makes it special for them. This technique has been a game-changer, helping us set realistic expectations and reduce potential friction.

I picked up this approach years ago when my mentor wisely told me, "Ask them what's important to them." It turned out that many of the things I thought were crucial to my family weren't as significant to them. This revelation not only eased my guilt but also opened my eyes to aspects I hadn't considered. Communication, especially proactive communication, has been a cornerstone of my parenting journey.

If you've followed our previous episodes, you might recall the emphasis on dedicating a day each week to connect with your daughter. Now, consider extending that conversation to discuss holiday traditions. Ask her about the things that make this season special for her, what she loves, what she could do without, and if there are any new traditions she'd like to incorporate.

When it comes to creating new traditions, I can't help but share my experience with "Pajama Thanksgiving." A couple of years ago, I was so burnt out with the holidays that I decided we needed a change. I introduced the concept of hosting Thanksgiving in our pajamas—comfortable attire, simple appetizers, and a relaxed atmosphere. Despite my initial nervousness, it turned out to be a hit with everyone in the family. This new tradition brought a sense of ease and joy to our holiday celebrations.

Now, as we navigate the holidays with our little ones, it's crucial to be realistic about the events we undertake. Especially for those with young children, the sensory overload during this season can be overwhelming. I recall an incident at a Dickens festival where my daughter became visibly distressed by the sights, sounds, and smells. It was a reminder to pay attention to their needs, ensure they get enough downtime, and be mindful of what they consume, balancing the festive treats with nourishing options.

As our children grow, their involvement in holiday preparations evolves. For elementary-aged kids, including them in decision-making processes and discussing holiday plans can be both empowering and educational. Teenagers, on the other hand, might express a desire for more independence. It's essential to have open conversations about their expectations and involve them in shaping the holiday experience. Setting clear expectations and boundaries ahead of time can help manage potential conflicts.

Before I conclude, I want to emphasize the importance of being clear about what you want during the holidays. Communicate your needs with your partner and children, and don't hesitate to ask for support in holding boundaries for rest and downtime. Simplify where you can and focus on what brings you joy and connection rather than getting caught up in elaborate plans.

Remember, it's okay to prioritize your well-being and create a holiday season that aligns with your values and energy levels. I hope these insights serve as a reminder or provide a new perspective as you navigate this festive season.