It’s that time of year when Modern Parents turn their focus from kids, work, and family schedules to the holidays…and all the modern challenges they create!
This past week, I’ve received a few emails from a few Modern Parent readers asking me for advice on how to handle some modern holiday dilemmas, and I thought I would share with you some of what we discussed – since many of you will experience the same challenges.
Before I get to the questions, remember that Modern Parenting is all about:
- Creating warm and close relationships with family members
- Helping each family member to be proud of their unique talents and traits
- Appreciating the meaning behind the season, and not the commercial aspect of it
Question #1: Do Modern Parents have to nurture relationships with family members who are toxic?
It’s really hard to nurture family relationships when you don’t get along with one of your family members. Chances are, you’ll have an extended family member (or even a close one) that is difficult to connect with during the holiday season.
One reader wrote about how hard it is for them to be around their sibling’s spouse for long periods of time due to their grandiose personality. Yet another Modern Parent wrote to me about how difficult it is for them to entertain their teenage step-child over the holidays.
I totally get it. You just aren’t going to “click” with everyone – and sometimes that’s ok.
While one of the core elements of Modern Parenting is to build and nurture family relationships, it’s also equally important to intentionally choose the influences you allow into your Modern Family. So, when it’s difficult to get along with a family member, ask yourself if going to the effort of nurturing a relationship with that person makes sense to your Modern Family.
For example, if you are struggling with getting along with your brother because you don’t seem to have much in common, making an effort to find things in common makes sense. Generally, he’s a nice guy and always remembers to send your kids birthday cards, so he’s probably a good influence to have around your Modern Family.
In contrast, maybe you have a family member who always nitpicks and criticizes you and your kids. They never seem to have anything nice to say to you or your kids. It makes sense to not waste energy in maintaining a relationship with this person.
Still not sure whether or not you should let a family go? Ask yourself this, “Does this person’s influence HELP my family, or HINDER it?”
The answer to that question will guide you on your decision.
Questions #2: How do Modern Parents handle family situations where they are being judged negatively by other family members?
Another core aspect of Modern Parenting is respecting other parent’s rights to raise their families the way they feel is best. Every Modern Family is uniquely different – and that’s ok. It makes sense, then, that because of this uniqueness, each Modern Family will have their own individual passions, values, and beliefs.
For more on Modern Parenting and finding your unique passions, values, and beliefs, read THIS ARTICLE.
So, how does the Modern Parent practice respecting others when they feel disrespected themselves? By not giving the judgement by the other person much attention.
For example, let’s say that you get seated next to your very judgy, non-parent cousin at the table during Christmas dinner. You get into a conversation with your sister about how much you and your kids like the tv show Stranger Things when your cousin tells you all about how her friend doesn’t let her child watch tv at all because it’s such a bad influence.
Because you will want to respect the parenting of your cousin’s friend, it’s best to just say something positive and then change the subject. For example, a simple, “That’s nice” or “I have friends that do the same thing too,” is enough. Quickly ask your cousin about her new job and change the subject.
From first hand experience, I know how easy it is to want to defend your own parenting during this situation. Take it from me, though, defending your parenting is usually met with deaf ears. The best evidence that you know what you are doing as a Modern Parent is by consistently living out your personal family passions, values, and beliefs.
Question #3: How can you make the holidays special for your child if you don’t get a chance to see them much over the holidays?
Whether you don’t see your child over the holidays due to a divorce or other custody arrangement, or they are grown and live away from you, it’s still important to stay connected with your child – especially during the holidays.
The best way to stay connected when you are away from your child is by creating and consistently performing family traditions.
Don’t have any traditions with your child? Or maybe you had traditions with them when they were little, but they are all grown up now.
It’s never too late to create new traditions with your kids.
Here are some pointers. Be sure to:
- Do something your child likes – this way they’ll be invested in participating
- Do something easy – if it’s too elaborate then it will be too difficult to repeat each year
- Do something meaningful – make it about building relationships with each other, not about gifts or things.
Family traditions are one of the best ways to maintain family relationships because they are predictable, dependable, and meaningful. Sometimes it might take a couple of tries before you develop just the right tradition, but I encourage you not to give up until you find just the tradition that works for your Modern Family.
Question #4: How does the Modern Parent handle their disappointment when the holidays don’t turn out the way they expected?
It’s so easy to build up in your head how wonderful the holidays with your Modern Family will go.
I’ve been there, done that.
But the reality is that the holidays rarely live up to our expectations. The best way to deal with this situation is to begin by managing your expectations at the beginning of the holiday. Remind yourself that the holidays are the perfect time to:
- Nurture relationships with family members
- Teach your kids the values and beliefs about the holidays
- Fulfill your personal need for a connection with family, friends, and faith.
When you use the above three criteria to manage your holiday expectations, then you will more easily adhere to may of the core principles of Modern Parenting.
You don’t have time to cook your family secret recipe cookies for your daughter’s class party? That’s ok. The cookies don’t make the holiday – bonding with your child at the class party does.
Your son didn’t show as much excitement about the gift you spent so much time picking out? That’s ok. The holidays should be about the deeper meaning about family and faith anyway. You will have an opportunity every year to get the perfect gift for your son.
Question #5: How do I keep my child from becoming an entitled Modern Kid during the holidays?
SUCH a good question!
Modern Parents are not immune to wanting to spoil their child with everything they’ve ever wanted during the holidays, but we also know that spoiling our kids does not align with our values and beliefs.
We want our kids to appreciate the deeper meaning of the holidays while still seeing their faces light up with joy during some of the special parts, too.
Instead of spoiling our kids with things during the holidays, try spoiling your child with experiences of feeling loved through family, friends, and faith. Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist has some really great articles on keeping the holidays simple and meaningful. Read THIS ARTICLE and THIS ONE for some great anti-entitlement holiday ideas.
The main thing that will serve to inoculate your child against modern holiday entitlement is to make an effort to share your values and beliefs about the holiday with your child. If you practice a faith, then include your child in those religious activities. If you don’t practice something so organized, you can still participate in activities that teach your child your values through experience. For example, if being charitable is an important value for you, than involve your child in a holiday meal for the homeless or something similar. Just focus on the deeper meaning behind the holidays.
It’s important to note, thought, that it’s part of growing up to be a little selfish, so if your child displays some entitled behavior, don’t automatically jump to the conclusion that they are a “bad kid.” Use these situations as opportunities to teach your child about your values and beliefs.
Take Home Message
The holidays can be very hard to navigate, but the take home message for Modern Parents is to keep in mind some of the core principles to Modern Parenting. If a situation starts to get a little hairy, ask yourself the following questions to provide you some guidance on how to handle the situation:
- What can I do during this situation that would help bring my family relationships closer?
- If this situation isn’t going the way I want it, what can I do to help the situation come close to what I’d like?
- What can I do to help each family member’s unique talents and gifts shine during the holidays?
- How can I encourage the appreciation of the holiday instead of focusing on the
The holidays become much easier to navigate with the helpful guidelines of the core Modern Parenting principles.
If you liked this article, you might also like these articles about Modern Parenting and the holidays: