Managing Family Time During the Holidays

While it may seem like it's never-ending when you're in it, the holiday season only lasts 32 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. If you're like the average American family, you've got family dinners to attend, shopping to do, presents to wrap, a tree to chop down, and decorations to put up — and then take down. By the time, the New Year's toasts are made, it can leave you feeling like you need another couple of months just to recover, but it doesn’t have to be this way. If you're trying to put the focus back on family this holiday season, here are some strategies to get you started.

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Establish Your Priorities

David Allen said “You can do anything, but you can't do everything,” and this goes for keeping up during the holiday season as well. Even if you wanted to attend every Christmas party, family function, and tree-lighting ceremony, it's just not possible without massive amounts of parent burnout and overstimulated child tantrums. Before things get too crazy, sit down and really think about which traditions and activities bring you the most joy and which ones you're just doing for the sake of doing. Start cutting things off the list — being absolutely ruthless — until you get to a manageable amount that makes you smile when you look at it instead of wanting to hide in your closet till January.

Learn to Say No

This one may seem odd, but there's an art to declining invitations or letting friends and family know you won't be able to host the cookie swap this year. Before you agree to do something, check that list you made and see if it matches up. If not, be gracious but firm. It usually works well to start by thanking the other person for the invitation. Then you can follow up with a polite no and end on a positive note. For example, you might say something like, “Thank you so much for thinking of us, but we won't be able to make the party Friday night. We're really looking forward to seeing you guys at the school play though!” Remember you don't owe anyone an explanation, just a truthful and polite RSVP.

Breathe and Be Present

It's easy to let perfectionism takeover during the holidays. You want your kids to have that perfect magical Christmas with the long drives to look at Christmas lights, holiday movie marathons in matching family PJs and Pinterest-worthy hot chocolate on Christmas morning. But it's ok if your holidays are a little less Norman Rockwell and a little more National Lampoon's. The most important thing is to just be present in the moment and making memories.

{ MORE: Co-Parenting: How to Make it Work During the Holidays }

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Managing Family Time During the Holidays

Katelynne has been trying to get the hang of this raising kids thing since 2007 but spends most of her time wondering who stole her copy of Parenting 101. When she’s not playing referee for her two children or writing all the words, she fantasizes about a full night’s sleep, uninterrupted showers, and triple venti caramel macchiatos with coconut milk. ... More

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