How to Set Realistic Expectations During the Holidays


The holidays can be a source of great stress for families. Many people have unrealistic expectations of how things need to occur. Before you start banging your head against the wall trying to make everything just right, consider new ways to celebrate. The holidays are about spending time with family and friends. Setting realistic expectations can help to make the coming holidays more enjoyable.

Let Go of the “Should”

If you find yourself stressing about all of things that you should be doing this year, just let it go. Celebrating is not about what everyone else is doing, but about what you and your family want to do. Expecting everything to go exactly the same way each year will only drive you crazy. You may have had some life changes over the years. You need to adapt your holiday expectations to what works for you and your family. Doing what is expected gets old very quickly. Focus on the things that you can do, and enjoy the time with your family.

Let Everyone Know the Non-Negotiables

Set some ground rules when dealing with your family. This may be your immediate family or even your extended family. Let them know what you expect of them. This can be in regards to either gift giving or attending holiday functions. If you can’t make it to a certain family event, talk to them about it. This can be difficult if your in-laws or your parents expect certain things from your family. Let them know if what they are asking is not going to work for you. Scaling back on gifts and setting limits on the number of gifts should also be discussed. Make sure to handle this topic with some sensitivity. Some people are under a lot of stress during the holiday season and may get offended easily.

Establish Low-Key Gift Giving

The holidays aren’t about the quantity of items that are received. A gift should be something that is meaningful to the recipient. Don’t make gift giving the focal point of your celebrations. This can be especially hard for children. It is important to teach your kids that there is more to the holidays than just presents. Have a conversation ahead of time with your kids about what to expect gift wise. Have your kids make presents for people to show them that gifts are about love and not material items. This will also allow them to become more involved with the gift giving process. Practice the old saying that it is better to give than to receive. Gifts don’t have to be expensive and flashy. Sometimes the simplest gifts are the best ones.

Work with What You Got

Reuse your old decorations, or transform them into something new. Be creative and work with the things that you have available. The holidays are not about having the biggest and brightest house on the block. Try having your family make new decorations. Involving the whole family in the process is a good way to reconnect. Don’t go out and feel the need to purchase something just because everyone is. Make the holidays more down to earth by using what you already have in your home. Remember that the holidays are about spending time with your family. This will also help reinforce the values that you want to instill in your children.

Involve Your Kids in Activities to Help the Less Fortunate

Show your kids that there are ways that they can help out in your community. You can purchase a gift for a child in need or your family can help serve meals at a local soup kitchen. You can also donate items to your local food bank.
If your kids have too many toys, consider donating some to a local charity. The holidays are a time of giving. Not everyone is able to afford all of the things that you have. This is a good way to demonstrate to your kids that helping those who are less fortunate can feel just as good as receiving gifts. This is a good lesson that will teach your children how to be generous and grateful.

Revive Your Holidays with New Traditions

Start new traditions with your family. This can be a good opportunity to have your kids tell you what the holiday season means to them. Allowing you kids to express their thoughts lets them know that you care what they think.
Older members of the family can share past holiday traditions that they used to do when they were children. Use this opportunity to allow your family to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.

Setting expectations that are realistic for the holidays can help save your sanity. There is no reason that the tree has to be piled to the ceiling with gifts. The table doesn’t need the perfect centerpiece arrangement. The food doesn’t have to look like it came out of a magazine. Enjoy celebrating with your family and leave all your worries behind. Set expectations that are within reach for your family.


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