There is no doubt that families are on the move these days. It is not unusual for multiple parents to be working, children in childcare and extra-curricular activities. Meaningful, relaxed time with your family members can be infrequent and preciously valuable when it occurs. Entering the holiday season, family calendars explode daily with invitations to holiday parties, cookie swaps, charity gift sign-up, shopping, and drop-off, fundraisers for great organizations that your family supports, and  holiday shows being premiered on  television, movie theater, and dramatic stage.

A holiday decorating sprint begins after Thanksgiving turkey is carved; Advent Calendars have not had their first turn, yet the electric meters have been spinning wildly. Just as some children are terrified of sitting on Santa’s lap, some parents are just as wary at viewing the credit card bill after all the gifts have been purchased. Rushing to send off holiday cards, parents may end up forcing an uncooperative family into coordinating outfits, faking picture-perfect smiles.

It seems families get caught up in the holiday hustle and bustle simple because parents want their children to marvel in the delights in the holiday season through enjoying special treats, continuing traditions, and finding magical moments of wonder.  Fitting it all in can turn the most well-intentioned weekend into a stress-induced exhaustive experience. What a gift it would be if adults could peek into the perspective of our children to see when the magic of the season morphs into madness of confusion.

As adults, we are the gatekeepers of the family holiday experience.  Parents can set the priority to create holiday experiences of quality versus quantity for our little ones to enjoy.  We have the power to switch waiting in long lines at checkouts for using internet shopping and shipping. We can trade perfection trimming of trees for the fabulously cheerful tree that the children helped with. We can serve with a smile the slightly over-browned sugar cookies that are still dunkable and delicious with hot cocoa and store-bought eggnog.

By asking each member of the family “What is the one thing you would pick to celebrate the holidays?” parents can have a sure-to-please place to start planning. Take photos at each of the chosen events, capturing sincere in-the moment- laughter, and relax if you don’t get around to opening the last bin of stored ornaments.

Although children may think holiday magic is found at the North Pole , an angel’s trumpet, or the wrapped presents under the tree- we as adults can hold the twinkle in our eye knowing that choosing less stressful choices for holiday experiences is what can enhance tidings of peace, joy, love, and laughter into our homes this holiday season.  Celebrate the season with intentional focus on your family, which is sure to create the gift of loving memories for years to come.

Annie Jung, M.A.LPCC, is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor who specializes in children, teens, and family therapy. She is also a married, mother of three Christmas tree assistant decorators. She can be reached at 925-759-7200, akjcounseling@yahoo.com or www.anniejungcounseling.com.