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Education > Friction Free Festivities

'Tis the season to be cranky? It seems like a lot of Americans are spending more of their holidays in fights than festivities. “Seasonal depression” has replaced “seasons greetings” as the status quo. The gathering of family around the dinner table has lost it's Norman Rockwell feeling. You may not even recognize the faces gathered there! New spouses, new babies, and newly grown -up children may have entered the scene. Not yet ready to embrace the “the more the merrier” approach? Take a deep breath (or a sip of eggnog) and get to work on these holiday-saving tips.

If you are Ex- “Empty-Nesters” and/or “Hosts with the Most” - BE FLEXIBLE!

Unfortunately, just because it's all happening under your roof doesn't mean it will happen on your schedule. Children returning from college are notorious night owls. Older generations, however, may rather spend the evening hours winding down or dozing off. Getting everyone on a similar eating pattern is hard enough to cause some holiday hair-pulling. Therefore, try not to cry over a spoiled itinerary. Make a list of things you would like to accomplish and plan them into time windows, not ten minute time slots. When planning, ask for input whenever possible and remember, don't push! People are used to their own pace and style and are more willing to cooperate when things are calm.

If you are “College Drop-Ins” and other assorted “Long Lost Kids” - COMPROMISE!

Being back under the watchful eye of your parents is enough to give anyone a slight case of holiday hives. Make matters easier by learning to compromise and choose your battles wisely. Insisting that your visiting girlfriend sleep in your bedroom while grandma is down the hall is most likely inappropriate and ineffective. Asking for a meatless dinner option if you're a staunch vegetarian is not. If and when things long since forgotten (like the dreaded curfew) arise, try to be patient. KINDLY remind them of your adult status and find a reasonable solution. Mature behavior will reap mature rewards.

If you are Newlyweds, Step-Somethings, and other “New Arrivals” – MARRY YOUR TIME!

Stepping into another family's holiday traditions can be like entering a tinsel-covered Twilight Zone. Survive the madness by creating a holiday casserole of sorts. Mix one part of your family rituals with one part of your new family's. Include as many people as you can for extra flavor. Take the time to do things right. Learn the stories behind long standing traditions, the secret ingredients behind family recipes. This will help you feel at home and help them see you as a natural part of the family. Once you reach a level of comfort, begin to institute some new traditions that your whole family/merger can enjoy. Make sure these are ADDITIONS and not substitutions. Don't forget to pencil in some private time with your new spouse or immediate family. You're all in this together, afterall, and will likely need some time to unwind.

If you are “Sandwich Generation” Children- BALANCE YOUR LOAD!

Dealing with aging parents,children, and grandchildren at the same time is the ultimate balancing act. Add a turkey on a timer and gifts to wrap, and you have a mini-circus before you know it. Focus on being as all-inclusive as possible. Give yourself some much needed rest by asking for help with the planning and execution of tasks. Special assignments will make children feel valued (not to mention keep them occupied and out of your hair) and will keep the oldest generation from feeling lost in the holiday shuffle. Vary your activities to fit everyone's needs and desires. Suggest periods of play AND of quieter time. Spend equal time anticipating the years to come and reminiscing about happy holidays past.

EVERYONE reduce stress, achieve balance, and restore the “happy” in your “happy holidays” with these merriment-increasing tips:

1. Set aside some personal time. Plan your escape route and activity. Have a charged iPod or a full tank of gas at the ready. The holidays should be a time of rest and relaxation, after all. Don't forget about you!

2. Remember the true reason for the season. Take time to reconnect with your faith and/or your loved ones.

3. Resist the urge to shop until you drop. Overspending is the main cause of holiday stress.

4. Don't put too much pressure on yourself. You may never live up to the romanticized holidays of your youth and that's alright. Give yourself an A for effort.

5. Catch some Z's. Nothing is worse than returning to your worklife more stressed than before your holiday break. Plus, you'll face each day with the clear and rested mind.

6. Laugh as much as you can. Holidays are a great excuse to spend time with children at play. It's also the perfect time to watch silly movies or share silly stories. The family that laughs together stays together (and that includes your son's crazy girlfriend, great Aunt Muriel, and your new step-cousin, too!)

2007 New Perspectives. Permission to copy this article is granted as long as the authors are notified and the following information is included:

Kathleen Passanisi PT, CSP, CPAE is an internationally recognized transformational speaker, therapeutic humor expert, healthcare professional and author. She has spoken to bajillions of people about life balance, wellness, the power of perception, and the link that exists between humor and health. Kathleen is a member of the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame and the funniest woman in Lake Saint Louis, Missouri (and, quite possibly, the Western Hemisphere.) For more information on Kathleen's presentations, books and products please visit the New Perspectives website at KathleenPassanisi.com

Annie Passanisi is the daughter of a motivational speaker (see above) who occasionally co-presents with her mother at women’s events. If that does not tell you enough about her, she is also a Chicago-based actor, singer, freelance writer and editor, 1950s pop culture enthusiast, and swingset champion. For more information, please visit www.TheAnniePassanisi.com.