By Laurel Boyd, LPC, LMFT
Christmas! Our promised savior was born! It is a holiday with so much promise and hope. When I was a little girl, Christmas was the most magical time of the year! The whole season and buildup of anticipation was so much fun—the music, decorations, commercials, food, crafts, etc. all added to it.
But now that I am an adult with five kids of my own, I have such a different take on this season. I still enjoy Christmas very much but I have learned a lot along the way. I want to share 6 things I try to keep in mind this time of year.
- Not everyone had a great Christmas past. Even though I have wonderful childhood memories, it is not a given that others do. I have learned that holidays carry more emotional weight than regular days. So the good memories can be very good but the bad ones can be very bad. The takeaway is to feel free to share your memories, but also have an awareness that others may have bad ones—and be willing to listen, even invite them. It can be very healing for someone to talk about bad memories to a safe person who will listen and care and validate that it was sad.
- Not everyone has a great Christmas present. Media would make us think that everyone is at their best and joyful at Christmas time but this is not the case. Since holidays can carry more emotional weight, feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety can be significantly amplified. Sadly, there is a significant rise of suicide during the Christmas season. The takeaway is to be aware of those in your world who are not joyful this time of year, or who have already felt depressed or anxious, and reach out to them.
- Don’t miss the Christmas season by getting ready for Christmas Day. As humans, we are so busy looking ahead and making plans, often we miss the current moment. Living fully in this moment brings happiness and peace. The takeaway is to treat every day in December as the main event and not just a countdown to one day. Slow down, look around, and purposefully use your five senses to fully take things in. For example, as you bake Christmas cookies with your kids, what do you see—besides a big mess? Your precious little ones are busy decorating and having so much fun. What do you hear—besides siblings fighting? Giggles, oohs, and aahs. Continue on with smell, taste, and touch. Do that every day with everything you do this Christmas season. Be all there at all you do!
- Memories kind of do make themselves. Don’t be so worried about TRYING to make wonderful Christmas memories that you miss actually making Christmas memories. Some of us parents can feel the weight of trying to make everything perfect and putting so much pressure on ourselves that we end up not enjoying things. But think about it, some of the best memories are the spontaneous things you can’t plan.I remember one Christmas Eve, my mother unexpectedly given the day off work at the last minute. Very spontaneously, she whisked my sister and I away for a day of shopping, lunch, and looking at Christmas lights. It’s one of my favorite memories. The takeaway is be sure to plan some fun things, but leave room for spontaneity and don’t feel the weight of needing to make memories for your kids—they will make themselves.
- Christmas is not just for children. Jesus’ birth is for all ages to celebrate. Sometimes I think we use Christmas to aid children’s already greedy propensities. I don’t mean to be a scrooge. I am just suggesting being careful to ask yourself what you are teaching your kids that is not actually being said. I’m sure most Christian families attempt to make sure they verbally teach their kids what the true meaning of Christmas is, but your unspoken actions can be louder. If you are saying this is really about Jesus’ birthday, but catering to their every desire, then whom are you showing it is really about?The takeaway is to give gifts if you like—my family sure does and we enjoy it thoroughly. But if you find yourself out frantically shopping on Christmas Eve because your kids just changed their minds—AGAIN—about what they want, and you feel like their Christmas will be ruined if you don’t get it, you might be taking it too far.
- Don’t let social media steel your joy. If you jump on any social network you are going to see many festive things. Perfect family pictures, flawless red and green cupcakes that leave you in awe, and ingenious things to do with your Elf on the Shelf. What you don’t see are all the takes to get that perfect pic and how the kids in the background are screaming for dinner as mom slaves over those cupcakes.The takeaway is to do absolutely what you enjoy. If you have that perfect dessert you enjoy making, then by all means make it! But if you are only doing it because you see others’ pictures on social media—then let yourself off the hook. Spend the time doing something you do enjoy.
Merry Christmas! Enjoy this most wonderful celebration of Jesus’ birthday!
Laurel Boyd, LPC, LMFT, counsels both couples and individuals and can be reached at lboyd@FBCJ.org. Boyd is in network with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi.