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If you find yourself stressing about all the things that you should be doing this year, just let it go. You need to adapt your holiday expectations to what works for you and your family. Focus on the things that you can do and enjoy the time with your family.

It is official. The holiday season is upon us and with it comes visions of more than sugarplums dancing in our heads. For many, it creates a scenario of holidays past mixed with the idealistic visions of happy families sitting around a fire drinking hot cocoa and singing Christmas carols. What happens when those beautiful scenarios don’t materialize?

The reality is that family issues do not disappear or become suspended during the holidays. Many families try to ignore them, but few succeed. The minute something happens contrary to your holiday vision, your overall vision is shattered. Add to that the fact that many families only see each other once or twice a year and personalities can clash.

If you find yourself stressing about all the things that you should be doing this year, just let it go. You need to adapt your holiday expectations to what works for you and your family. Focus on the things that you can do and enjoy the time with your family. Here are some other ideas for maintaining realistic holiday expectations.

Be proactive. If you are concerned about potentially difficult conversations (think politics) during the holidays, remember these events are about bringing people together, not driving them apart. Focus on good memories and what you and your family have in common. Plan activities that foster fun and laughter, such as playing a family game or looking through old photo albums.

Set expectations only for yourself. You have no control over the weather or the moods of your family members. Setting expectations for others or uncontrollable events and basing your happiness on them will only spell disaster. Instead choose to focus on what you can control — yourself and your attitude.

Remember what’s important. Commercialism can overshadow the true sentiment of the holiday season. When your holiday expense list is fatter than your monthly budget, scale back. Homemade gifts such as cookies or pies make excellent gifts because they come from the heart and not the local mall. Children can even make some gifts for other family members or handmade ornaments for your Christmas tree. Remind yourself that family, friends and the relationships are what matter most.

Involve your kids in activities to help the less fortunate. Show your kids that there are ways that they can help in your community. You can purchase a gift for a child in need or your family can help serve meals at a local soup kitchen. You can also donate items to your local food bank. The holidays are a time of giving. This is a good way to demonstrate to your kids that helping those who are less fortunate can feel just as good as receiving gifts.

Keep things in perspective. The holiday season is relatively short. It helps to maintain a broader context and a longer-term perspective. If something goes wrong, realize it’s not the end of the world. Remember the good things you have in your life and recognize that this situation will pass.

Take time for yourself. You may feel pressured to be everything to everyone. Remember that you’re only one person and can only accomplish certain things. Sometimes self-care is the best thing you can do. Reflect on aspects of your life that give you joy; go for a long walk; listen to your favorite music or read a new book. All of us need some time to recharge our batteries. Be mindful and focus on the present rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

Maintaining realistic expectations for this holiday season will create a calmer and more peaceful atmosphere for you and your family.

Mary Migliaro is an educator, parenting mentor and consultant who lives in Cherokee County.

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