Celebrate holidays without adding stress

December 13, 2013 

For a month before Christmas, we reserve Sunday evenings for one of my favorite traditions. My family sits around the kitchen table. The TV is turned off. The lights are dimmed. Candles are lit. Stories are read. And, hot chocolate is sipped. One recipe for a night to remember.

Our hot cocoa, storytelling nights weren’t always this warm and cozy. I struggled to keep my kids focused. I put all the pressure on myself to make the evening fun and memorable. I was more focused on teaching joy than watching joy unfold. Instead of inviting more joy, I was inviting more stress. Has this ever happened to you?

We put a lot of pressure on family traditions. They have even been described as the glue that holds the family together. How’s that for heaping great pressure on ourselves?

I want to create a new recipe for finding joy in family traditions. Will you join me in liberating ourselves from being the glue that holds our families together? And, try a new recipe:

Add a heaping cup of choices:

What choices do youhave? I have the choice to make our borrowed tradition our own. Instead of reading the stories I borrowed, I add our own Christmas books. I even let my kids and husband add their own ingredients.

I don’t want to lead and plan the entire evening. My family begins participating in a way that feels enjoyable to them. If traditions are the moments that families remember for years to come, I want each person to have a choice in what ingredients they add.

Sift out expectations:

By adding choices to our tradition, I let go of my expectations. I share the responsibility. I’m not the only one holding the family “glue.” The evening becomes a compilation of each of us.

Before I know it, my kids are telling spooky stories and making hand puppets in the shadows. The recipe for joy is growing. And, our tradition is so much better than what I expected. Have your expectations ever interfered with finding joy?

Bake for joy:

While joy can be found in any moment, our holiday tradition took years to bake. Each year, I tweak our hot chocolate night. Our evolving tradition has new ingredients. I look forward to seeing what we will bake up for years to come.

“I define joy as a sustained sense of well-being and internal peace – a connection to what matters.” By Oprah Winfrey

In my recipe for joy, what matters is being myself and allowing others to be themselves too. What is your recipe for finding joy in family traditions?

Please share your favorite family tradition.

Marci Payne, resident of Lee’s Summit, is an Individual and Marriage Counselor in private practice:

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