Quality Time is a Trap (And 5 More Truths That'll Make Your Holidays Happier)

Quality Time is a Trap (And 5 More Truths That'll Make Your Holidays Happier)

gingerbread cookies showing how quality time is a trap

You’ve seen the holiday movies filled with happy family gatherings, hot cocoa–fueled heart to hearts, and alarmingly good-looking strangers coming together to bring joy to the world. They’re fun, festive, and—at least for many of us—pure fantasy.

In real life, the end-of-year parties and presents often come with a lot of pressure. So much so that one out of every three adults says their stress levels go up during the holidays. And if you’re feeling a bit frazzled? Chances are your girl is, too.

“Kids are super intuitive and pick up on the moods of those closest to them,” says Girl Scouts’ developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald. “So if you want your girl to have a happy, relaxed holiday, one of the best things you can do is give yourself a bit of a break—literally AND figuratively.”

If that sounds easier said than done, read up on these six holiday truths that’ll make everybody’s holiday a little happier.

1.    Quality time is a trap
In theory, planned quality time is awesome. It’s a chance for you and your loved ones to make special memories together that will last a lifetime. But the truth is, the more you try to plan a picture-perfect moment, the more disappointed you (and your girl!) might feel if something goes wrong. “Go ahead and get tickets to see a holiday show or plan a special weekend trip if you have the time and money, but there’s no need to force it into an already packed schedule or stress if it doesn’t go according to plan,” says Dr. Bastiani Archibald. “After all, it might be the memories of all the in between moments—the relaxed, happy, you-being-you moments—like singing a silly song on the way to the mall or just snuggling on the couch watching a movie that she treasures most in the years to come.”

2.    Perfect is the enemy of done
Fact: the two and a half hours you’re spending trying to make your snowman cookies look Pinterest-perfect could be spent dreaming and scheming with your girl. Nobody’s saying you should flake out on the holiday bake sale (it’s for a good cause!), but there’s no need to pretend you’re on set of the Food Network’s latest holiday bake-off. Same concept goes for elaborate holiday cards, giftwrapping, and all the other trimmings. Sometimes “good enough” really is best!

3.    Traditions aren’t set in stone
Do some of your holiday traditions feel a bit tired or tedious? Rethink them! “If your girl has aged out of an activity she loved in the past, talk it over with her to see if there’s something else she’d rather spend her time on,” suggests Dr. Bastiani Archibald. “Likewise, if there’s a new member in your family or someone you loved has passed, the holiday routine may need adjusting.” Check in with your family, then make a plan for what you want to keep on your holiday calendar and which things you might want to lovingly leave in the past. It’ll free up some time for rest, relaxation, and spontaneous fun.

4.    Overspending is never a good look
Giving to others is often the best part of the holidays, but spending more than what your budget allows will only cause financial hardship in the new year—and set a poor example for your girl. “TV shows and movies are filled with stereotypes of girls and women, arms laden with shopping bags, looking their absolute happiest,” says Dr. Bastiani Archibald. “But what they don’t show? The stress and worry that can come after the rush of shopping has disappeared and left a cash shortage in its place.” Set a better example for your girl by setting a budget and sticking to it. Better yet? Get her involved in planning how you’ll spend your holiday budget. She’ll have fun playing holiday elf and gain some valuable financial know-how in the process!   

5.    The magic of the season does not include mind reading
So many parents—especially moms—take on the holiday chores and planning single-handedly and then end up too tired to fully enjoy the festivities themselves. Sound like you? Take a step back, assess your team (kids count!), and delegate. Sure, you might think you shouldn’t have to ask your girl, your partner, or others in your life to help—but the truth is, they might feel intimidated or unsure of the best way to pitch in. Spelling out specific tasks will clarify roles, get everything done faster, and give everyone a sense of ownership and pride over the family’s holiday experience.

6.    It’s the thought that counts, but stop counting those thoughts
Chances are, you’re already raising your daughter to know that it’s the thought, not the specific gift or gesture, that counts. Now take that idea one step further and show her how to stop keeping score altogether. Not sure what that means? Imagine you sent holiday cards to 25 people and only got 10 back. Instead of complaining and wishing you could take back the 15 “extra” cards you sent, recognize that some families might have more on their plates than others, and be happy that you took time to share some holiday happiness. Or maybe a neighbor stops by with homemade treats for your family, but you haven’t gotten her anything in return? Send a heartfelt thank-you and stop stressing out. Sending well wishes and giving gifts is meant to be about generosity and caring, not competition.