- We will be traveling to our relatives in another state for several family gatherings during Christmas. Two of my siblings are problem drinkers and I am not sure how to handle this with my family. We do not drink so my children are not used to seeing family members act up while under the influence. In the past, the drinking has gotten out of hand. My children are now old enough to ask questions. What do I do or say if the drinking starts to become a problem again?
Drinking during the holidays can get out of control and create many problems for families, especially in families where problem drinkers are in denial and do nothing to prevent getting intoxicated.
The best advice is to make sure that when you visit, you have a way of escape. Even if your siblings offer to let you stay at their homes, reserve a room at a hotel. That way, if their behavior becomes problematic, you can leave.
Before you travel, I would tell them and your parents that the past history of drinking makes you uncomfortable and that if things begin to get out of control, you will excuse yourself and leave. This way it puts the burden on them to moderate. If they persist in their behavior, you explained the rules ahead of time.
If you leave, have a talk with your children about the importance of family (the reason you continue to visit) but that there are times family members must set limits and boundaries on behavior that is unsafe or inappropriate. Being around people who are drunk is not something you want to expose them to or be around. Altered states change people in ways that are not always nice. This is a hard line to take but one that will earn the respect of your children and may cause others to rethink their enabling behavior. Don’t allow anyone to put guilt on you for setting boundaries. You are not telling your family what to do, but telling them what you will or will not tolerate to keep your family safe.
- Even though I love the holidays, I also dread them because of the stress involved. I feel on-edge, my children are out of sorts and my husband and I seem to fight about family and activities to attend. I don’t want to feel like Scrooge this holiday season. Are there ways to minimize the stress and actually enjoy this time of the year?
The holidays can be overwhelming if you allow the activities and commercial hype to take over your schedule and life. Approaching this time of year with intention and planning helps prevent family meltdowns and conflict.
First order of business is to purchase a small notebook and write down a list of what needs to be done during this season. Include everything you can think of from shopping to baking for school events. Then put it all on a calendar according to deadlines.
Next, you and your husband sit down together and go over the list. Prioritize the list and make sure there are activities you both like and agree to keep on the list. You can turn down invitations and reduce your volunteering if the list looks overwhelming.
Third, consider shopping-online. You save time and the hassle of crowds. To save money, watch for free shipping days.
Finally, focus on the spiritual side of the holidays. The commercialization of Christmas is emphasized in our culture, so you must do all you can to promote the true meaning of Christmas. Read the Christmas story, attend church services and special programs, pray as a family and take the time to sit quietly in front of your tree and thank Jesus for being Emmanuel, God with us. It is this reality that brings peace to our lives.
Despite the stress, the message of Christmas is about joy, peace and hope. The light of the world has come! Rejoice!
- I am divorced and think my ex spends way too much money on Christmas gifts for our two young kids. This is causing tension between us. It feels like a competition I can’t win. I find myself spending too much because I don’t want to look cheap. He has more money than I do. I think he buys the kids expensive gifts because he feels guilty for leaving. How do I get him to be more reasonable?
Getting along with an ex seems to require more intention during the holiday season. To deal with this issue, you need a no competition rule. Instead of trying to one up each other, focus more on how to make the time with the children meaningful and pleasant. Both of you must work together for the sake of the children instead of using them to make a point.
Meet your ex for coffee and talk about gift giving and see if you can work together on a gift list for the kids. If you can’t do this in person, then try email. If there is an expensive gift, then suggest going in on it together. Don’t bring up other issues. Stay on point and try to coordinate the giving.
If he refuses to work with you, talk about the impact of this on the kids. Resist giving him counseling!
If he continues to buy the children’s affection, be careful not to say this to your children. Simply say, “Wow, really nice gift from daddy,” and drop it. The tension is created by your anger or upset for his lack of cooperation. You may be right about his motivation but to hang on to that resentment only hurts you.
So, present the issue to him, suggest ways to work together for the sake of the kids and see what he does. With or without his cooperation, you can let go of anger/resentment, release the tension and give it to God.
Spend only what is reasonable in your budget and don’t make it a competition. Sometimes when there is a tug of war, the best strategy is to drop the rope. And whatever you do, don’t involve your kids in this issue. Keep in mind that your children won’t remember who bought them the most stuff, but will remember who helped make the holidays a positive and memorable occasion.
- As much as I love to shop on-line, I prefer to tackle the masses during Christmas and head to the malls and store. My question is, “How can I shop with two little ones (ages two and four) and remain sane?” I will have to take them with me but really want to give it a try.
Holiday shopping is possible with young children. It just takes a bit of planning and a careful eye.
I remember the time I lost my three-year-old in a clothing rack. I started to panic and then realized he thought the store was a great place for hide and seek. Lesson learned—explain the rules ahead of time! Before you leave the house, talk about what you are going to do and what is expected of them.I would include a small reward for following directions to be established before you leave. It can be something simple like playing on a playground, listening to a CD in the car, playing a game when you return home, etc.
Remember that shopping for grown-up presents is boring for kids so keep your trips short. You may have to make multiple trips rather than knock it all out in a day. Also remember to feed your kids before you leave home. Food does wonders to cure irritability! Take plenty of snacks and drinks with you because tiny tummies empty quickly. You can take a break, grab a table or sitting space and refresh! Add a small toy or pop up book to your bag in order to divert their interest while roaming the stores.
In terms of security, I’m not big on the leash idea but you need to have some way of keeping those little ones close to your side—whether that’s putting them in a cart, holding hands, shopping with a friend, etc. When you get to your shopping destination, don’t wander. Know where you need to go and which gifts you are purchasing. You might want to research your purchases on-line before you head out to stores in order to have a better idea of best price and availability.
When you shop, buy a gift that involves the children. For example, let them help with buying a toy for a relative or toy for the family pet. Periodically, remind the children of the small reward that will come at the end. Finally, pay attention to their mood. When it starts to deteriorate, it’s time to go home. Head for the car and pat yourself on the back!
Now, get out there!