Tag Archive for: how do I survive the holidays with my kids

What Do You Want Your Kids’ Christmas Memories to be?

I wrote this blog the first Christmas after my daughter’s death and hope that it is an encouraging reminder of what our role as mom is during this Season.  As you head into the final week of preparation, my prayer is that you will pause long enough to cherish the memories that you are creating and will remember to give lots of hugs.

God bless.


This has been a year to reflect on our family Christmas memories. With the death of my daughter this year, the details of Christmas are more pronounced than ever.  The glaring reminders that it is time to celebrate even though I’m not quite in the mood. 

I’ve found that I am over-consciously aware of my surroundings.  The trees are greener, the decorations more detailed, and I have a sense of every Christmas smell.  Yesterday we had an extended family get-together and someone wrote nutmeg as a reminder of the season.  I could almost smell it in a pumpkin pie even though there wasn’t one in the house.  It is as if my senses are on steroids aware of every particular aspect surrounding me– especially the vacuum deep in my soul.  The hollowness of something missing.  Someone is missing.

As the children’s choir stood on stage this year, I saw our daughter as an 8 years old be-bopping to the music.  As I shopped I saw her as a 13 year old spraying all the scents at the perfume counter deciding which was the best.  I remembered when she came home from college one year and we went Christmas shopping on Black Friday.  We could barely carry all the bags to the car because of all the outfits we bought her for under $50 at the Macy’s sale. 

Memories are everywhere I go with all the details.  And I will admit that not all of them are good.  The things I got upset about.  The frustration I showed in my voice.  The things I could have said differently or the hug that I could have extended in a difficult moment.  You see, at the time, the details weren’t so vivid.  They were lost in the commotion of everything else that had to be done.

And if I can convey anything to you as a mom, “Please don’t let everything else around you be more important than the details with your kids.  The table might not be perfect or the pie might be a little burnt.  You might forget to buy the nuts for Uncle Ted’s favorite cranberry sauce.  But-none-of-it-matters.”

The only thing that matters is what they will remember–what you will remember.

  • If we’re tired and worn out, they’ll remember us yelling at them for the umpteenth time. 
  • If we have one more thing to do, they’ll remember that we didn’t have time for them.
  • If everything isn’t perfect and we let them know, they’ll think they never measure up.
  • If impressing our extended family is more important than our kids’ requests, they’ll feel they aren’t as important as others in the room.

We have the power to change all thatBut it takes looking at the details.  It means we have to look in the mirror at us.  What do we want our children to see?  What do we want their detailed memories to be?

Even though our loss is heavy, I choose to see the flip-side.  Now instead of singing on stage as an 8 year old, my daughter is singing with a choir of real angels glorifying our heavenly Father in person.  She has a front row seat to what the season is all about.  She smells the sweet aroma of sacrifice as she’s dressed in white.

The details of all the Christmas hymns seem to have more meaning to me now.  Even though there is a void, I long to hear the words of the carols.  “We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!”

Now that the crazy busyness is over in preparation for the Christmas season, I hope you’ll take some time to reflect on what this season really means to you and what you want for your kids.  Even if your teens and tweens are in a stage where they are tough to love, try to extend grace in the midst of their struggle.  These are times when we need the strength of our heavenly Father.

Someone sent me an email earlier this week and the words have resonated with me all week.  It’s what I want this Christmas season.

I hope your Christmas is filled with silent moments with the King, and love overflowing to family and friends. 

Silent moments with the King!  That’s what I want.  

Now that Christmas is here, I hope you will rest in Him.  May He be your guide and strength during the season.  And may your silent moments with the King reveal the details of His everlasting love.

Luke 2:14

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

May His favor rest on you as you create memories this holiday season.  May you find peace in Him today and be sure to find time to carve out silent moments with the King.

“Let go…and Let God”,

Setting Christmas Expectations?

The other day I found myself in a fast food restaurant  with two teens sitting a booth away.  As I eavesdropped on their conversation, I realized that they were in the same mode I was in–setting expectations.

I was sitting with my sandwich and my list of all the things I needed to accomplish to make the holidays perfect.  Making a list of presents to buy and activities our family could enjoy together, I listened as these two boys planned their perfect Christmas break.

“I’m going to move my gaming system down into the basement during Christmas and play games all week.  Hopefully, I’ll get the new controller that I want along with a game.  You can come over and hang out with me and maybe spend a couple of nights.  I’m also going to invite Josh and Simon.”


“I wish I could be Ryan this year.  Then I would definitely get all the gaming gear I want for Christmas.  His parents are both PhD’s with great jobs.  He’s set for life and can get whatever he wants…”

And the conversation continued.

But I stopped listening.

The light bulb in my head was shining brightly.  Oh, my.   I wonder what his parents are doing to combat his expectations?

How many times do we as parents plan the perfect holiday season while our kids are off doing the same thing?  I’m sure this kid’s parents didn’t envision their son spending his Christmas break holed up in his basement with his gaming system and all his friends.  I’m guessing all the boys that he is planning to invite have parents that are making family plans as well.

So what will most likely happen?

Conflict and lots of unrealized expectations.

It’s natural to have expectations; and planning does need to take place before the holidays arrive.  But what are we as parents doing to set expectations–realistic expectations–for both us and our teens?

A couple of years ago, my oldest son and his wife were coming home from Europe for the holidays.  Since I hadn’t seen them in a while, I absolutely couldn’t wait to have all my kids home for Christmas–it was a treat that only came around every two years.  I had set my expectations on all the fun things we would do as a family.  

And then my expectation bubble burst.  

Yes, they were coming home, but they were bringing his wife’s sister and my son’s best friend.

What?  For the holidays?  But that should be family time — was ringing in my head.  How are there going to be intimate one-on-one conversations when we are entertaining guests?  Christmas morning will be weird with others watching our family open presents. 

And the list of all my objections continued…

Not only did my expectations clash with my son and his wife’s expectations, but I realized that my other children also had expectations of what Christmas would be like.  They couldn’t wait for their brother to come home in anticipation of all they cool things they would do together.  They didn’t want to share this little time they had with their brother. 

I could see my youngest’s heart was heavy with disappointment as he realized that his brother’s time would be spent with his friend and not with him–a cruel reality in his mind.

It became a time of expectation readjustment–for everyone.

So how do you get everyone on the same page with expectations before school is out and the holidays begin?

  1. Plan a family time to have conversation–if not together at least separately.  Be sure to include kids that are away at college and those that are married.  Find out what each person is hoping for when you all are together.
  2. Set expectations early and stress the importance of flexibility.  Let everyone know that not every dream for their holiday can be met fully.  
  3. Let everyone know the non-negotiables.  For example, if dinner is on Christmas Eve with grandma then that might mean family only.  Period.  There will be other times during the holiday to include friends.
  4. Make sure everyone is in on the plan early rather than the day of the event.  Let each person know when they will have free time to do their thing.
  5. Make sure everyone has plenty of time to “grieve” their expectations before the holidays begin.  Time gives the person time to readjust the dream versus the reality.

As my youngest got used to the idea that his brother was bringing guests for Christmas, he had to “grieve” his expectations.  I’ll admit, I grieved with him.  For him and for me.  But what I discovered was I needed to allow him to express his disappointment.  We talked frequently about what he was going to miss about the one-on-one time.  And then we put words to his desires with his brother.

“What is one thing that you could do with your brother that would be special?” I asked.  As he contemplated that, it helped him to reset his expectations of the holiday season.  

For me, I knew that I wanted at least one moment where my oldest where I could just have deep conversation without interruption–just our special time together.   Once I shared those desires, it became an expectation that my son was more than willing to fill.  We went to his favorite restaurant while my husband entertained our guests.  That time together filled my soul.

That Christmas had a profound affect on our family.  It helped us be more flexible in our expectations of the holiday season.  It also forced communication in dealing with disappointment by verbalizing “one thing” that was import so that our  expectations would be lowered which meant less conflict.

For us, we also discovered that having friends join the festivities during the holiday season took the focus off the gifts and made it about connection.  What we got was the “best” of the Christmas season and memories that will last a lifetime.

Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Dare you to start having your holiday expectation discussions today with your kids so that peace will reign throughout your Christmas season.

“Let go…and let God”,