5 Tips for Having the Happiest Holiday Ever

The November – January holiday season is supposed to be one of great joy and family connection.  The hard part, though, is that often that family joy comes at the expense of one or two family members who expend a great deal of effort getting things just right, cooking (for 5 different special diets!), decorating, and making sure Aunt Lucy and Uncle Xavier don’t get into it again.  This can be exacerbated when there is ADHD in the house – when deadlines and specific family traditions put a premium on being organized and ‘falling into line.’  Phew! It’s hard to feel joyful when you’re exhausted, so here are some ideas for upping the ‘joy factor.’

Embrace potluck.  I should have loved the holidays growing up…and there were parts of it I did love – the three generation crafts projects my mother loved; decorating the tree and sharing memories of where each ornament came from; making cookies.  Notice that all of these things are playful and connecting (see below!) What I definitely did NOT love was the kitchen death march to get a very complex, set menu (passed down from my grandmother) onto the table.  I was chained to the kitchen for a good part of the day, executing the orders. 

Consider purchasing pre-cooked food, having a pot luck, or creating a menu that can be made ahead at a more leisurely pace.  If you have visitors flying in (making it hard to bring something) task them with creating their part of the meal after they arrive.  Or, put them in charge of something that must be bought or takes time, such as buying alcohol or decorating dessert.

Slow down.  In the holidays I used to be a woman with a mission – there was a lot to do in a very short time!  As a result, I got a bit more bossy.  This does not fit well within a household that includes ADHD.  When he saw me (the mini drill sergeant) coming, my husband, who HATES being told what to do would head for the hills, leading to my feeling frustrated and abandoned.   I’ve learned that slowing down, and being less invested in a specific outcome makes everyone (including me) more comfortable and happier.  If I’m not stressed about the holiday, neither is the rest of the family.

Make it ‘good enough’, and be flexible. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that ‘Holiday parties’ = ‘need to make things perfect.’  Pair Christmas caroling with pizza and beer or a holiday dinner with the take out Chinese you all love.  What’s most memorable is HOW you are together.  The stuff that surrounds you is much less important.  Many of the details can be ‘good enough.’

Walk and play.  All generations enjoy a good walk, so everyone can get out, kids can run around.  A good walk is a happy reset button for the entire family.  Family games and puzzles also provide an opportunity for laughter and a nice break from politics and family gossip.

Take care of yourself.  I need quiet time.  At the holidays I REALLY need quiet time.  Don’t overschedule yourself – make sure to set aside some time to read a book, exercise or do something that brings you calm