As our families draw together across the nation for the holidays, some of us find them to be times of loving family traditions celebrated, OR… sources of anxiety and dysfunction. 

The famous Dr. Phil McGraw offers this tough and touching plan for holiday harmony.

  • Remember what it’s all about.   Really reflect on what you are thankful for.  And listen ~ it’s interesting to see what people talk about and what means a lot to them.   The focus should not be on freaking out over food and seating charts, but on spending quality time with those you love.
  • Grandparents, know & respect your limits.   Don’t contradict Mom & Dad.  The time to negotiate about behavior (and the kinds of “spoiling” that are okay) is before you get into the heat of battle.  Ahead of time, parents need to talk to grandparents about behavioral expectations.
  • Choose not to fight.   It doesn’t take a special person to make the life decision that you are not going to be combative with your family members any more.  If this holiday season produces a “meltdown”, don’t let it be because of you.
  • Delegate, Delegate, Delegate.   If you are the “one” who usually takes charge and ends up with most of the work, make a pledge to yourself this holiday season to spread the work around.  It won’t kill you to order a pie instead of making one.
  • Don’t miss the innocent moments.  Keep an eye out (and your camera) to see the excitement & joy in a child’s face when they see and experience family holiday traditions for the first time ~ not to be missed!
  • Keep your focus.  If recent times have been hard for you, and you can’t put on the holiday “show” you have in the past, give yourself a break.  Expensive video games, clothes & holiday vacations should not be your definition of “providing”.  Providing for loved ones really means mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually ~ all of those things ~ not just “material” gifts.
  • Curb those high expectations.   If you expect things to be perfect and run smoothly, you very well may be upset when they don’t.  And they usually don’t!  So, if you expect less than perfection, there will be some really good moments, and you’ll be happy ~ and thankful!
  • Challenge tradition.  So, you may not make it to the big gathering this year.  A telephone call, emails, Skype, etc. may suffice, and give you a little of the emotional connection you are missing.
  • Don’t set dinner on fire!  Sometimes there is just so much going on, you lose track of the turkey, ham, whatever.  Dr. Phil tells of the Thanksgiving when he left the giblet bag inside the turkey by mistake, and the whole bird burst into flames!  We’ve all done something like that at one time or another.  If the food preparation effort is less than perfect, laugh it off ~ it will probably become a family “do you remember when…?”!


Source: USAToday/Parade (KaraChiles) Nov. 16, 2012 Adapted by CFR’s Lisa Caulder

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