by Valerie Morby Posted Dec 11, 2018
December can be difficult, filled to the brim with to-do lists and busy schedules—not to mention finals if you’re attempting to finish up your semester! We understand that no matter where you are in life, you may find this time of year overwhelming. With that in mind, we wanted to offer you some tangible tips to help the Christmas season run smoothly.
One thing we almost all have in common is family gatherings. Whether you’re heading to your parents’ house to spend your few weeks off from school or heading to your in-laws’ house for a three-day visit, our advice is the same: as you walk through the front door, enter with a mindset to serve. Ask yourself, “What can I do to be helpful?” We promise, this attitude of service will change the tone of your entire stay. Additionally, instead of seeing time away from work or school as a break for you, view it as an opportunity to be intentional with friends and family. Recognize that your sister-in-law may be going through a hard time—ask her questions about what’s going on and how you can pray for her! Your niece or nephew might be facing a medical issue—inquire as to what you can do that would be helpful for the family. Continually consider what people may be going through and how you can be a blessing.
College students, we know it’s tempting to spend your break sleeping, visiting with friends, and catching up on Netflix. This is enticing, but we encourage you to consistently be asking yourself how you can help your parents and family members. Consider doing the dishes before your mom asks. Offer to babysit, run errands, or cook dinner. Remaining as “others-focused” as you are at camp will do wonders for your relationships with the people around you, and your family will be grateful and blessed by your presence!
A simple but amazingly helpful tip: think ahead. Before you shop, before you travel, before you prepare a meal. Think ahead about your budget for gift-buying. Plan out those sleeping arrangements when you have company. Consider how meal prep and cleanup is going to go. Anything you can do to strategize and plan ahead will set you up for a more successful experience—and save your future sanity!
This break from school for students of all ages opens a world of opportunities for your family to address any significant issues that have presented themselves recently. These few weeks are an opportune time for you to make counseling appointments for your children or anyone in your family who might need them. Don’t wait until the break is almost over to make a plan. Have conversations on the front end about talking to a professional during this time.
Gift-giving can be a demanding task. Our own Craig “Dutch” Langemeier’s family has come up with a way to eliminate over-spending on Christmas presents: each year, they put everyone’s name in a hat and draw the name of one person they’ll be buying a gift for. They set a price limit, and then everyone only has to buy one present for a family member!
Another great Langemeier tip? Find a way to make your family December Advent devotionals run as smooth as possible. Their family has a tradition during the Christmas season you might want to adopt! After dinner and evening activities, the children all get completely ready for bed before gathering together. They turn out all the light in the house except for a single “Christmas candle.” Then the family reads from the Bible or an Advent book, or sometimes they just sing a Christmas song. They pray, and then everyone tiptoes “quiet as church mice” to bed. It’s a great way to settle the kids down, spend time worshipping as a family, then head to sleep in a quiet, dim house. Heaven!
How can you make future Christmases go smoothly? Be a student of how your holidays go! Think about keeping a journal during not just Christmas, but Easter, Thanksgiving, and any other holidays that involve travel, extended family, and other out-of-the-norm activities. Then review how those holidays went, and try to identify any pain points and figure out how to avoid them in the future. Maybe your small children start to melt down after more than two nights away from home. Consider making your family trips shorter in the future to save your family sanity! Or perhaps you notice that your wife gets overwhelmed when she has to make more than one meal a day for her guests (show of hands?). Figure out a way to share who makes meals, or strategically plan out how to eat out a few times a week. Overall, just be someone who notices the people around you and how the holidays affect them, and use that to your advantage in the future.
We pray you have a sweet, stress-free Christmas this year. Remember to think ahead, remain others-focused, and be a student of your own holidays! Most important though, we hope you keep your eyes fixed on our Savior and His glorious birth into a lowly manger. Merry Christmas!