By Shari McMinn
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!
(1 Chronicles 16:34 ESV)
Well, tomorrow is Thanksgiving and it’s just another day in the life of trauma mommas. Are you one of them? I am. This long season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s can be filled with a lot of fun family events, gifts, special foods, and a change-up from the daily homeschool grind. But, it can also be filled with other things that are not so fun ….
My relatives all got together with each other through the years to celebrate, but my family often stayed home as it was too stressful to dress up, be polite, and endure lots of questions about why our kids are so different. And then there were the too many clueless, unhelpful suggestions that we should get them the services and teaching they needed in a “real” school.
For trauma mommas like us, November through December can be filled with teary-eyed drama, angry melt-downs, sibling fisticuffs, and ruined days with sleepless nights. I have heard too many times, “You aren’t my REAL mom!” or, “Why did she get more presents than me?” and worse, “If Dad were here, he would have got me what I really wanted for Christmas!”
Oh, goodness! So much for the highly anticipated goals of thankfulness around the turkey dinner table and cheerful caroling in front of the beautifully decorated Christmas tree.
How do we survive the winter holidays when trauma never seems to go away for some of our unique learners? It doesn’t matter if they are adopted, foster, or bio kiddos learning to adapt to new siblings. They might be a displaced oldest child, the cry-baby youngest, or the one lost in the middle. They could be highly gifted or mentally challenged. They could be completely typical youngsters grieving over a parent lost through divorce or death. I’m pretty sure there is (or ought to be) a Berenstain Bears’ book called TOO MUCH HOLIDAY! written just for your family and mine.
Now that we have all that venting done with, let’s strategize a plan to survive the next 42 days!
- Make a shopping list that is within your budget; order things online to avoid taking kids to stores.
- Spend the same amount on each member of your family, so you can say you did so without lying.
- Married? Divide the work of the holidays in half with your spouse.
- Got teens? Assign them simple tasks to help. They didn’t do one? Assign it again the next day.
- Don’t worry about holiday letters — or do one if that’s the only thing you do. Eblast it.
- Don’t expect picture perfect holiday photos — ham it up; capture a hilariously painful moment.
- Have a family talk about the most important things to do; prioritize and minimize.
- Expect meltdowns and allow extra time for them, especially if dressing kids up to go out.
- Don’t dress up to go out; in fact, stay home in sweats or jammies as much as possible.
- Don’t schedule more than one thing PER week. There are five weeks until the New Year, so plan to do five things.
- Focus on being grateful for the simple things for Thanksgiving.
- Focus on the birth of Jesus as the most important gift for Christmas.
- Try to provide food that is caffeine, dairy, gluten, nut, and/or sugar-free — whatever helps.
- Holiday activities are part of homeschooling; maybe cut back on bookwork to the basic 3 R’s.
Kids look awful in church? Oh well.
Children misbehave in front of relatives? Oh well.
Your house looks like a hurricane hit? Oh well.
You are exhausted to the core and look terrible in front of everyone? Oh well.
This too shall pass and maybe, just maybe, next year will be better.
Pick a few of these simple festive things to do so trauma is minimized and family fun is maximized.
- Use Thanksgiving leftovers to make sack lunches for homeless people in your community; have your kids with you to hand them out as you pray with a recipient.
- Starting December 1, read the book of Luke one chapter a night; by Christmas Eve, you will have read from His birth to His Ascension into Heaven.
- Put the kids in pajamas, bundle up warm, and drive around looking at Christmas lights.
- Sleep in. Take a family nap. Go to bed early. The idea is to sleep more than usual.
- Teach your kids some simple, fun Christmas songs and go caroling in your neighborhood.
- Spend time as a family making holiday decorations; put them up even if they are imperfect.
- Go find whatever Christmas tree you can afford; have the kids help decorate it. It’s ok if it’s ugly.
- Make cookies or snacks together; package them and deliver to your elderly neighbors.
- String popcorn on thread or dental floss; hang the garlands on your outdoor trees for the birds.
- If it snows, take a day off of homeschool bookwork to go sledding or build snow forts.
- Go to church. Sit on the back row if you have to. Worship Jesus. Even if your kids won’t.
As you try to just “get through” the holidays, remember you are not alone. You may email me anytime, Shari@CHEC.org or reach out to the staff who answer the CHEC office phone, 720-842-4852, Monday-Friday, 10am-5pm, for assistance, encouragement, and guidance. For my December blog post, “Jesus is a Gift and So is Your Child,” I will write about seeing the beauty in the mess of life.