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I'm Dreaming of A White (And Calm) Christmas

The holiday season is upon us, and while it's a season of celebrating and joy, there are also many struggles that young adults deal with during this time. Christmas is my favorite time of year; I get so excited about decorating the tree, stringing up lights, watching holiday movies, and listening to pretty music. But, it's also a time of year when I get very stressed. I worry about money, getting along with my whole family, and getting time off from work. Over the years I've learned how to lessen the stress, and have come up with some strategies for making the holiday season run smoothly.

Going home for the holidays. With divorced and remarried parents, it can be tough to navigate the holiday waters. Who do you stay with? Who do you spend Christmas morning with? This becomes even harder if you don't have a great relationship with one of your stepparents. If you're only visiting a few days, then it makes sense to stay with one parent and visit the other (if they live close by). But this can be hard to bring up to parent for a number of reasons: you worry about hurting their feelings, you don't want to ruin any holiday plans they had, and it's hard to stand up to your parents as a young adult.

I suggest talking to each of them separately, before the holiday's are in full swing, and let them know what you've decided. This is your decision – don't let either one make you choose something you don't want. Something I do over the holidays is alternate years with my parents and stepparents. This year I'll be staying with my dad, stepmom and younger sister, and spend Christmas morning with them. Next year, I'll stay at my mom and stepdad's house and spend Christmas morning with them. I think this is a great system, because there isn't a question of where I'll be – there's no arguments or anger about it each year. Think about your own situation and what system might work for you. Having something set up with reduce the stress of figuring it all out at the last minute.

Gift-giving. Oh, presents. It can be really fun to go shopping and pick out presents for your loved ones, but it can also be extremely stressful. As young adults, we're still figuring out this whole independence thing, and learning to be financially self-sufficient. Maybe it's your first year out of college and you're working at a grocery store, or maybe you're in college and swipe cards at the cafeteria to pay your bills. Either way, chances are you don't have a lot of extra money laying around - I know I don't. It's easy to feel pressured to go out and buy nice gifts, but the reality of life might not allow that. Instead, think about something you could make. A photo collage, mixed c.d., homemade fudge – these are all things that come uniquely from you, and you don't have to overdraw your bank account to make them. Make sure to include each family member in this – don't make something special for your dad and forget about your stepmom. The holidays are special to family, and everyone needs to be included.

Getting along. Remember – if you're stressed, chances are you're not alone. It can be hard when everyone is thrown together, and no one has much personal space. And while it would be great, it's likely that not everyone gets long perfectly. There are a few tips I've come up with over the years that have helped me make it through family time smoothly.

  • Leave past issues in the past. The holidays are not the time to bring up how much you hated your brother's ex girlfriend, or how mad you were last year at your mom for not giving you the present you asked for. If there are things you want to talk with family about, save it for another time when you can have an honest, one-on-one talk with that person.

  • Include your stepparent. Don't just spend your time catching up with your mom or dad, ask about how your stepmom or stepdad is doing. Cook Christmas dinner for them, or let them pick the holiday music. 

Most importantly, take time for yourself. You may not have a lot of personal space, but I urge you to take what you can. Take a walk around the block, offer to run to the store, or spend 15 minutes of quiet time in your room. As an introvert in an outgoing family, I get exhausted without some quiet alone time. I've found that by taking little breaks from the festivities, I stay a lot calmer and happier throughout my visit.


What are your holiday challenges? Do you have ideas on how to cope with them? Please write in with your questions, struggles, and thoughts on making it through the holiday season in one not-too-frazzled piece to ESM@evilstepmom.org

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