When we watch Christmas movies or see images of the holidays on cards and commercials it is always the same. A family, warm and toasty around a fire. Sipping hot chocolate and listening to carols with smiles on their faces. But if the truth be told, ‘family time’ in most of our homes would be more accurately portrayed with images of us;
- Running to office parties
- Wrapping and exchanging gifts
Once done, we have our head in our hands as we anticipate January’s credit card bills. The reality is; we are all too exhausted and stressed to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year.
It Starts At Home
The hustle and bustle that comes with the Christmas season seems inevitable. But you’ll be encouraged to know that with small tweaking of our habits and a change of focus, we can reduce our stress, increase the well-being of our families and bring joy back to the month of December.
As a leadership and family coach I am often asked how these two areas connect to each other. In my eyes it’s quite simple. Leadership begins at home.
As parents we teach our children how to lead and how to follow others. I came from a time when our parents told us to “do as I say and not as I do”. It’s not too hard to see that my generation didn’t fall for this expression. Furthermore, I don’t suspect that it will work for any generation to come. Children learn by example and tend to pick up behaviors they’ve seen modeled.
So what exactly does this have to do with bringing joy back to the holiday season? Well, in many cases, we are giving our children mixed messages. We tell them that Christmas isn’t about gifts, then we strain ourselves financially to put the latest and greatest toys and gadgets under the tree.
We communicate that they should remember others in need but become so absorbed in our activities that we don’t give back to the community. Even more, we tell them that it is important to be healthy, but we load up on treats and run ourselves ragged. So how do we begin to align what we do with what we say to send our children? How do we send a consistent message and step off this holiday hamster wheel?
Become A Great Leader
Becoming intentional is key. The greatest leaders have a strategy and as a parent this is also very important. Consider your values. What lessons and memories you would like your children to take away from their special time. For our family we have chosen to teach;
- Caring for others
Our strategy looks like this:
Spend family time truly connecting with each other. Spend time talking, sharing, playing games; particularly ones that start conversations. We learn a lot about each other as we talk and at this age of technology, that is often taking away.
We strive to maintain our connectivity during the holidays. This also helps us to understand where our children are at emotionally and can lead to helping them to have stronger mental health.
Slow down! Determining to not be in a rush by;
- Planning our time better
- Shopping online rather than the mall
- Including the kids in activities like baking and cooking (even though it will take longer)
Overall, patience is taking a breath and not always choosing the fastest route. Rather a more rewarding and inclusive one.
Keeping an eye on our health by eating well and not overindulging. Staying active, taking a moment to read, meditate or pray. Self-care is different for everyone, but the key is finding things that refill your tank. Making you feel happy, peaceful, rested, rejuvenated and good about yourself.
4. Caring For Others
We have opted to reduce and in some cases eliminate gift giving. Instead, we redirect our funds and energy to those who are less fortunate. We spend family time making baskets for families in the community, serve at local shelters and giving to toy drives.
5. Focus On What Matters
Christmas for us is a time of gratitude and appreciation. It is important that our children are thankful for what they already have. Appreciate even the smallest gifts that they are given. We set a budget and do not go overboard with items that are often cast aside in a few weeks. We also choose to reduce the number of events we attend and focus on quality time spent with each other.
Quality Family Time
Christmas holds many fond memories for me growing up. I rarely can recall the gifts I was given year after year, but I have some special stand out moments of time spent with family and friends. As a leader in my home I choose to be intentional about what is modeled so that our children will learn from the example that has been set.
I don’t want my children to think of Christmas as a time of being overscheduled, burned out, broke and dissatisfied. Rather, I want them to see and learn about peace, joy and all that really matters.
This holiday season, I encourage you to be intentional about what you are modelling during your family time together. Lead them strategically. Demonstrate your true values and make this truly, the most wonderful time of the year.
La-Toya Campbell is a Leadership and Family Life coach who consults, mentors and teaches tools for impactful, engaging and perspective shifting leadership in both the professional and personal arenas.