By Kathleen Ganster
It’s Christmas Eve and you are visiting your in-laws, then off to church, and finally back home to get the kids in bed before “Santa” visits.
Next morning, you rush the kids through gifts to go to the open house at your sister’s house, an early dinner at your mom’s, then over to your brother-in-law’s place for dessert. When you finally get home Christmas night, the kids are tired and cranky, you are exhausted and Christmas is but a rushed memory.
The holidays weren’t meant to be a time of frenzy, but of joy. So how do we turn it back into a happy event?
“Last year, we decided it wasn’t fair to make the kids leave the house after Santa had just come, so we opted for an open house that day,” said Cara Colazzi Rolinson. Rolinson and her husband, Chris, have two sons, Maxwell, 6, and Andrew, 4.
After years of going to both her in-laws’ and her own parents’ homes, they decided to change their traditions. Since her in-laws are divorced, it added yet another stop.
“I made food all day, easy to eat things and snacks and told everyone if they want to see us that day they needed to come to us. They were welcome to come whenever and stay as long as they wish,” she said.
That didn’t mean everyone loved the new tradition.
“I think it was hard for everyone to move past the non-formal dining experience they all were used to. This year we are doing the same. Hopefully, year two will get a better response,” Rolinson said.
Starting new traditions for your family is a good method to eliminate some of the running about, said Janet Fazzini, elementary school counselor at Hartwood Elementary School, Fox Chapel Area School District.
“Sometimes we come to the realization that ‘enough is enough,’” she said, “The kids want your time and to do things with you. You don’t need to run all over.”
That doesn’t mean that you can’t incorporate extended families and others into your traditions, but it doesn’t have to be on a particular date.
“If you want to visit others, make a list of priorities – where do you want to go first,” she said.
Extended families are important, but you can’t over-shadow what is best for your own children.
“You can spend time with your family on other holidays, you can alternate years,” said Frazzini, “I always tell my own kids (now grown) that I want them to come for a celebration not because it is an obligation.”
And if your children protest spending time with family members, especially those tweens and teens, explain the importance of visiting, especially elderly relatives, said Frazzini.
“Make a compromise with them. Allow them an evening with their own friends on another night or agree only to spend a certain amount of time at grandma’s,” she said.
Above all else, focus on your own children’s needs.
“You can say to your relatives, ‘We love you dearly, but we need to stay home for us,’” said Frazzini.
Rolinson agreed, “It’s hard to make everyone happy while keeping in mind what we feel is best for the four of us.”