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Great ideas on making the holidays a great experience

The holidays can be so wonderful, and exhausting too. With expectations, family dynamics and all the plannings it takes also. I have some tips to make it less complicated.

Surviving and Enjoying The Holidays Stress Free As A Family

Let’s make sure we avoid THIS

And have the BEST season EVER! WE are going to not only SURVIVE the holiday, but have JOY and amazing MEMORIES!


HOW you ask?

Well, I have a few questions for you:)

Are you ready?

Are you prepared?

Mentally as well as with gifts, your home, and everything else you want and need to do?


Ready or not….

The Holidays ARE coming!!!

This time of year is highly anticipated with visits from family near and far.

However, it can be a challenge….ok, even down-right frustrating oftentimes.

The weeks of planning, shopping, wrapping, cooking and preparing for a ‘perfect family time’ can sometimes, ok, actually most of the time, turn out a bit different than intended.

I’ll share some tips and help here so you can Surviving and Enjoying The Holidays Stress Free with family and friends this season.


We WILL have FUN, and I mean it….


But really, what are your expectations?

Do not expect perfection from yourself or your family – it’s not reality, nor will it ever be for anyone, unless they are paid actors with a script.

People are human beings with their own quirks and personalities.

Try to imagine your family as a sit-com and get a laugh of the oddities that will most certainly occur.

The occasional criticism, the annoying comments, the small disagreements; it’s all just a part of being a family.

The key here is to do your best to forgive, and smile.

Of course if there is a serious issue, deal with it as an adult, meaning think it through, count to ten, take a long walk and breath deep to avoid lashing out, or saying something you shouldn’t that will damage relationships.

However, usually, these things are in the category of: This too shall pass and they will go home.

Show kindness and respect to everyone, not just those you get along with better, or family members who treat you more kindly and are more considerate.

If you work on being calm, happy, loving to all,  you’re giving your best, and that makes all the difference.

Mainly, do not over-think or over-prepare. Over-think means to imagine up all kinds of scenarios that might come, or might not – and 99% of the time, they don’t. You cannot control everyone or everything – It is just not possible. So don’t try.



What CAN you DO to prepare?

How can your scenario be –  Surviving and Enjoying The Holidays stress free?

Here are some tips: 

  • Have your house clean before they come. Everything will go much smoother, because clutter adds to the chaos.
  • Have extra basic supplies on hand, such as extra toothbrushes (go to the local dollar store and look at the basic toiletries for ideas and for low cost to you).
  • Have your laundry all caught up and put away. Then when the family needs to wash clothing due to a baby blow-out, a toddler accident, or their own needs, it will be available and you won’t be stressed trying to squeeze in your washing too.
  • Paper plates, paper cups, disposable utensils will be your best friend! Do not stress over doing all those dishes! This is a holiday for you too. And there are some really nice looking ones if you want to matchy-matchy:)
  • Have snacks on hand that are on the healthy side, such as cheese sticks, crackers, granola bars, fruits, vegetables, bread, peanut butter, etc. for the family to snack on when they get hungry. Put them in a ‘free zone’ meaning let them know they can have it whenever they would like and they don’t have to ask permission. This is particularly thoughtful for new in-laws or guests who may feel it would impose on your generosity to ask for food other than meals. But a hungry tummy makes any get together not so fun and brings irritation to the surface.
  • Speaking of food, it works well to label ‘do not eat’ in masking tape or on the container if it’s a necessity for a certain recipe. There is nothing more uncomfortable than finding out your critical ingredient was eaten, the stores are closed or too far away, or the expense of replacing it would be too much. Embarrassing all around.
  • Consider food allergies. If you are the guest and you have special needs please bring considerate and bring your own food so you are not an inconvenience. For example if you do not eat meat and only tofu, and you know the hostess/host normally does not have tofu on hand, by all means take it as well as any other specialty, expensive or hard to find items.
  • Find out dislikes of certain foods and have a few options, such as peanut butter and bread, cereal, frozen burritos, anything simple they can prepare on their own, while not making more work for you. You may think this is going a bit overboard, but I will give you my example. I will not eat eggs of any type of preparation, so if I had the option of cereal or instant oatmeal for breakfast when eggs were the planned menu, I would really appreciate that host/hostess the mostest!
  • Do not be militant or overbearing, but do set down rules and boundaries that apply to your home. Make them clear from the get-go. For example if you prefer people not to smoke in your home, provide ash trays and politely ask if guests would smoke outside.



Let’s Think Ahead

Do’s and Don’ts:

  • So-and-so might drive you crazy!  But remember some family members are more social than others.
  • Expect everyone to participate in every single activity being offered, or even be involved with the family much; that’s just how some people are, but love ‘em just the same.
  • Have an escape plan for yourself and spouse IF it does get a bit crazy. Just tell them you have to go make sure all the little fish are still in their proper tanks at the local store. Or that you need to go help arrange the books at the library from tallest to shortest. It will give them the heads up you need a break, and doing it with a sense of humor.



My best advice:

Do tell your family of the ONE or two (but NO more than that) most important activities, or events to you (and spouse if it applies) that you want everyone involved in, and be clear which one it is.

This could be a family picture, a dinner, a visit to see a relative, anything, but just one or two things and that’s the rule you cannot break.

It is important that adult children have their own traditions to solidify them as a family unit and they may have the other side of the family who would like to see them also.

This makes you happy because your main event will be attended by all, and helps family members know exactly what activity to plan on above all else. Generally they don’t want to disappoint or seem rude, they just may not know what would be the one thing that would have made your most happy while there.



Do NOT over-prepare:

  • Have food that can be prepared simply and quickly so that you can participate in the family time and enjoy it as much as everyone else.
  • Try to have food that if it is not used, it can be stored for a future time.
  • Freeze food ahead of possible.
  • Have things prepared to do, such as games, movies, an outing to see the holiday lights or a local attraction. BUT, do not expect everyone/anyone to do all those things. It is nice to have ideas to vote on, or choose from out of a hat.
  • If you are the one visiting relatives, chip in and help with the cooking and clean up. Do not wait to be asked, PLEASE.
  • If it is your house everyone is at, do not be shy about asking for help. It only makes you feel resentful that you are in the kitchen alone while everyone else vegges in front of the tv.





You know how an animal can sense your nervousness?

Well, people are the same.

That is why it is essential that you relax. You enjoy and savor the time together. Whether your family is together for one hour or for a week. If you need to, sneak away for a few minutes, have some hot cocoa and remember the blessing of having family to come visit you:)



BUT remember, you can only do your part, not theirs. So keep a proper perspective, enjoy the ride and remember that family’s are made up of complicated individuals we LOVE.

Who knows, after all the festivities and everyone has gone home, you could possibly write a best seller – just be sure to change the names:)

Copyright Carrie Groneman, A Mothers Shadow, 2019
Recognize a blessing and be a blessing today.  



  • Great advice and must admit that no matter what I do think this time of the year does cause stress though. But still thank you for the gentle reminder to let it go when possible;)

  • Carrie,
    You amaze me at all your thought you put in to making Christmas fun and enjoyable for everyone. I love that we should expect all family to participate in certain things. It is so difficult with everyone’s schedule. I get frustrated with all the cell phones. I have to ban them which does not makes me the party pooper. Do you experience this? My kids are from 12 to 23 and most of them are addicted to social media. Having this blog is not helping me set a good example, but I do not allow social media during any family time.
    Life gets hard. I truly thank you for your advice.

  • Jenny.U says:

    Great ideas. Now if we can just follow them!!

  • Dee says:

    This is a wonderful post, Carrie. We have a large family, adding relatives to the mix can get even more chaotic. Thanks for the great tips! 🙂

  • Kimberly says:

    I’m totally in love with this! Pinned and tweeted. We appreciate you being a part of our party, and I hope to see you on tonight at 7 pm. We love partying with you!
    Happy Monday! Lou Lou Girls

  • Carrie,
    These ideas and tips are so well thought out. I love them all.
    Now I need to get started.

  • Tasha says:

    Carrie, this is an exceptionally helpful post and you covered all bases! I am most definitely an over-thinker at times (I’m working on it) but I try not to have too many family gatherings at our home because I know how stressful it can be. It’s great that you mentioned how everyone is not as social…that is fantastic advice because sometimes people expect everyone to be fully engaged in conversation when you’d rather just sit back and listen/watch what’s going on around you! You have this down to a science!

    • That is a wonderful compliment Tasha. I worked to try to address all the different types of families, personalities and dynamics so my readers could kinda think ahead of who would be coming, as well as their own expectations of what they wanted versus reality of what others had the potential to give back as they prepared for the holidays. So glad you liked it.

  • Nikki Frank-Hamilton says:

    These are great tips, it’s so easy during this busy time to get on each other’s nerves or infringe on boundaries, etc. But it’s so good to get together so I hope it goes smoothly for you all. I’m sure you are the host with the most!
    We are spending Christmas with just the 4 of us, cozy family time. I’m sure we’ll get on each other’s nerves! LOL The magic of Christmas only goes so far! LOL

    • Thank you Nikki, and I’m in the same boat, we still get on each others nerves, we are family, heehee. I’m so grateful you will have all of your family together, what a blessing and prayers answered. Most of mine will be here too, and luckily there’s skype!

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