Our latest issue out now!Fall 2016
The holiday season is upon us, and thus begins what for many is the busiest time of the year. For me, it has always been a favorite season. As a child, the onset of the school year was the beginning of my internal calendar year. Growing up in Ontario, Canada, there was a rapid shift in temperature, landscape, and mood, from Labor Day on. The shorter days offered the opportunity to slow down, focus inward, and connect more as a family. After Labor Day we grew excited about Halloween, then looked forward to Thanksgiving, counted the days to the holiday festivities, and welcomed in the new year with clanging pots and confetti!
This season is rich with opportunities for creating and practicing rituals, traditions, and beautiful memories. Our rituals tether us to the heart of the family, and our traditions anchor us to the foundation of the many generations that preceded us. They guide us in developing our identity and allow us to take pride in our own unique family culture, value system, hopes, and dreams.
This unique time of year gives us permission to tap into our inner child. Dusting off decorations from the attic with our children, crafting new ones together, and creating wonderlands in our home. We giggle over funny costumes at Halloween, look forward to our favorite dishes during holiday meals, and cozy up around the fireplace as the days grow shorter and cooler.
Of course, this idyllic portrayal can easily be sabotaged by the common challenges of limited time, work/life tug-of-war, and financial pressures. We might wrestle with guilt about not “doing enough” for our family, not “focusing enough” on our work, or not “giving enough” to our kids. We scramble to do it all: have a perfectly decorated home;, host a spectacular holiday party; hand-sew costumes; and attend every boat parade, holiday ballet, and tree lighting ceremony. Ultimately, we often find ourselves overwhelmed, depleted, and counting the days until it’s all over! Clearly, this is not how we would like to experience these last few months of the year.
The greater our ability to be present, to focus on the moment, and to tap into our own personal values and priorities, the greater the potential to really enjoy the season. The holidays offer us the opportunity to teach our children about gratitude, appreciation, and the gift of giving and doing for others. We can allow them the excitement of wish lists for material gifts while also modeling the enjoyment of simple treats and emotional gifts. We understand their desire to have and do every fun thing, but we can also teach, and model, the importance of realistic expectations.
As the mother of three adult children, I can assure you that your children will remember very few of the material gifts they received over the years. Instead, they will reminisce about time spent together, games played, songs sung, movies watched, and favorite dishes baking in the oven. These precious moments fill them with a sense of belonging, as they feel loved and valued, and they know that you relish experiencing the season through their youthful eyes. All of this creates a connection with them when they are young that sets the stage for continued connection as they grow older.
So, as you move through the last season of the year, I encourage you to let go of the pressure of perfection, to appreciate the moments, and to allow your inner child to play. Embrace the opportunity to connect with yourself and your loved ones, to create rituals, practice traditions, and build memories that will fill your soul and touch your heart for all the years to come.
Kathleen Mates-Youngman, M.A., is a licensed marriage and family therapist. She is an Amazon best-selling author and a national speaker.
For more information about her private practice, books, magazine articles, and online classes, or to hire her as a speaker, please go to kathleenyoungman.com.