Stress Wrapped in Christmas Paper

Dear Sue Ellen,

The holidays are always so hard for me. My kids want more stuff than I can afford to buy. We always spend more money than we should. We invite relatives over for Christmas dinner that we really don’t enjoy being around. I wish I could erase the month of December from my calendar. Do you think calling off the holidays altogether qualifies me as a neglectful parent?

– Stressed Out Mom



Dear Stressed-Out Mom,

I hate stress. I think it is evil. It sneaks up on us like some kind of wicked predator; watching and waiting to attack us with high blood pressure, weight gain, sleepless nights and a host of other unpleasant maladies.

What is neglectful about being human? We all have stress in our lives. The trick to rid ourselves of this misery is to recognize stress and deal with it before it harms us. If you are stressed out, more than likely your kids will be stressed out too. That isn’t neglect. That is life.

So… what can we do to relieve ourselves of stress during the holidays? Have you ever heard Paul Simon sing the song that says, “Go out the back, Jack…Make a new plan, Stan…Don’t need to be coy, Roy…Just get yourself free…”! This is how I use those lyrics to incorporate de-stressing my life: I come up with plan A, and if that doesn’t do the job, I go to plan B. What are those plans? It depends on the situation.

What does your perfect Christmas Holiday look like? What if you and your family decide together to change your traditions to something that everyone can enjoy? Take a trip together. Go and spend time with people you and your family really enjoy. There is nothing in our constitution that says we have to celebrate the Christmas Holidays. Since you would like to erase the month of December, why don’t you just rename that month to something that makes you smile? Are you rolling your eyes at me??

The holidays are stressful for a lot of folks, for a lot of reasons. Sadly, it does impact our kids, so doesn’t it make sense to teach our kids that when stress comes (and it will) there are things you can do to be strengthened by life’s challenges, rather than harmed by them? If you are able to accomplish that during this holiday season, you have given your kids a gift that will last them for the rest of their lives. Merry Christmas!


– Sue Ellen