Time For a Holiday Debriefing?

Upgrade next year’s holidays now.

Posted Dec 29, 2018

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Oh, the stress and strain of holidays. The forced march from Thanksgiving to Hanukkah and Christmas to New Years. Money stress, family stress, travel stress, time stress. And you do what you do because there are family traditions and expectations, but they may be traditions and expectations that no longer work — that 16-hour drive to grandma's has turned into a kid complaint fest because all the kids want to do is stay home and play with their new toys; the lone single daughter feels awkward among all the families and would rather be hanging on a beach somewhere. But like the Emperor’s New Clothes, everyone goes along because no one has the nerve to speak up; everyone is afraid to rock the boat.

If you're happy with your holiday routine, read no further. But if not, maybe it’s time to step back and see if a holiday-upgrade is in order. Here are some topics to consider:

Travel

That 16-hour car trip, the flight to Colorado. Is it working, worthwhile? Can folks come to you? Is a longer visit in the spring sans snow maybe a better idea? Is it okay to head to the beach with friends?

Time

Stuck with your in-laws for 5 days — maybe a bit too long? Too much downtime with kids playing video-games for 18 hours, adults drinking too much and watching too much football. Maybe need for day trips, getting the kids out of the house and into the woods? Or maybe a bit too rushed — go, go, go. Maybe skip the 6 a.m. breakfast and allow everyone to sleep in.

Place

And speaking of sleeping in, maybe time to get yourself or your company off the inflatable bed (with the slow leak) or off the couch and into an Airbnb to give everybody a much needed break?

Meals

Meals are usually the focus of family time. But is somebody doing too much of the heavy lifting when it comes to preparing meals? Are there too many cooks in the kitchen? Need simpler meals, more potlucks, do take-out?

Money

Using a third of your yearly income on travel and presents? Time to pare down expectations and gifts? 

Sanity & Stress

What reconfiguring any or all the above is about is making the holidays more sane and less stressful. But you also want to build into your plan boots-on-the-ground emotional support. Here is where couples and families check in with each other every couple of hours: Is my mother driving you crazy? Do you need to go off by yourself for a couple hours or take a nap? How about we volunteer to go the grocery store for a 3-hour milk run? Let’s just take our family out for a short hike? Building in this "I've got your back, let's take care of each other" approach at the front-end can make a big difference in staying sane.

And If you decide that you do, in fact, want to change it up next year, map it out in detail — like the family hike, the nap, the fewer presents — and then give everyone else concerned — the hosts, the arriving family members — a heads-up well in advance so they have time to adjust their expectations to your vision. Expect that you may get push-back — after all you are breaking long-held patterns — but hold your ground. Help them understand your perspective and the problem that you’re trying to fix — that the kids get too tired, that you just need downtime because you’re an introvert and your social battery can quickly run down. 

And finally, this way of debriefing isn’t just helpful for holidays, but is useful for any big, repeating events — vacations, kid birthday parties. The goal is to learn to do better — to smooth out the rough spots, and more importantly to make the event fit your changing needs and visions.

Next year is just around the corner. Plan your holiday upgrade now.

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