The presents have been opened, the party food has disappeared, the extended family has come and gone, the decorations have been put away, and you’re eager for life to get back to normal. You’re ready to return to your family routine. First, take some time to reflect with these 10 questions.
1. What is your/your spouse’s/your children’s/your spouse’s children’s/everyone’s (miracles still do happen!) favorite memory from this family celebration?
2. What worked well for you?
3. How are you creating special memories?
4. What special customs, traditions, and celebrations do you want to continue?
5. Do any of these traditions need to be modified for growing children?
6. What activities or people would you like to add to your celebration next year?
7. What are you especially thankful for and does your use of time before, during, and after a family gathering reflect this?
8. When the children are grown and have families of their own, how do you want them to remember your time together?
9. What could you have done differently?
10. What would you like to change next year?
Second, schedule time to have a discussion with your spouse about your individual answers to these questions. Don’t rush. Pick a time when you are both relaxed-probably not on the drive home or when the in-laws or exes have just departed-and make sure you are not exhausted or overemotional either.
Third, take notes so you have a plan of action for next year. Otherwise, you may keep baking grandma’s stollen only to discover twenty years later that nobody, including the dog, ever liked this foodstuff.
Fourth, give an after-the-celebration gift of understanding. Don’t expect holidays, birthdays, or any other family get-together to be perfect because the people who gather aren’t perfect. Empathize with your spouse’s trials and disappointments. Work toward a winning solution for both of you for the next year.
Fifth, spread the cheer throughout the year. Take the things that matter most to you and incorporate them into your daily family routine. Do you cherish the holiday dinner? Have family dinners. Serve special foods when you have the time to cook even if you have to make time on weekends. Invite people over. Do you enjoy the gift giving and receiving? Be a giver all year long. Let your family know you like receiving gifts even if it’s not a special occasion. (This is a foreign concept to some people who hate gift giving.) Do you want more time to visit with your extended family? Use technology to stay in touch. Get together in the summer when school is out and the weather is nice. Do smaller, spontaneous gatherings if you live within driving distance.
Lastly, talk with your children to discover what they enjoyed most. Their answers may surprise you.