Holidays With Kids Series, #1: Set your holiday expectations low

As soon as my son was born, I started dreaming about his first holiday season, even though it was only April. By the time December rolled around I had everything perfectly planned out: adorable Christmas sweater, check. Toy menorah, check. Appointment to sit on Santa’s lap, check. I’d waited so many years to bring the magic of the holidays to my own child, and it was finally time for me to make it happen. My holiday expectations were incredibly high.

But my son’s first holidays were anything but magical. He was completely oblivious to the toys we bought him. He wouldn’t sit still for the holiday card picture and kept destroying the wrapped gift boxes that we were trying to use as set décor. He cried throughout Christmas dinner and my husband and I barely ate anything. He almost swallowed a dreidel.

It seems that those first holidays with my son followed a classic formula:

Unrealistically high expectations + The completely unpredictable nature of young kids = Massive holiday disappointment.

Once I started working with other moms, I realized that lots of moms have overblown holiday expectations. What I wish someone had told me, and what I tell moms now, is that the key to successful holidays with little ones is to have LOW expectations. There is so much you cannot control when you have a little one: the weather, their mood, whether or not they are freaked out by Santa or the Menorah candles or their great uncle. Plus during the holidays kids’ regular routines are totally disrupted, making them more vulnerable to tantrums. Expecting holiday bliss is only going to leave you frustrated.

After I stopped imagining a picture-perfect holiday season for my sons, I was able to roll with the punches and appreciate the things that did actually go well, like when my younger son devoured my mother-in-law’s Christmas ravioli or when my older son first played the dreidel game with my mother.

As we approach the holiday season, set your holiday expectations low. If you do, I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Stay tuned for more articles and videos in Dr. CBT Mom’s holiday series!

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I’m Ilyse Dobrow DiMarco, Ph.D., aka DrCBTMom. combines the expert advice of a self-help book with the warmth and readability of a mommy blog.
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