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Style: Folsom | El Dorado Hills

El Dorado Hills Expert on Solutions to 3 Common Holiday Situations

Nov 24, 2015 12:56PM ● Published by David Norby

Family dinner photo © Monkey Business/

From finances to dealing with in-laws, the list of stressors this season may be as long as your child’s wish list. Thankfully, we have easy solutions for every situation—ensuring everyone stays merry and bright.

The Situation: I can’t afford as many gifts as I gave last year and am afraid of disappointing the kids.

The Solution: Personal finances can change from year to year. It’s the thought that counts with gift giving, not the retail price. Create a budget and stick to it. Establish realistic expectations for the kids by informing them ahead of time that there will be fewer gifts this year because there’s less money. By spending responsibly and working within a budget, you not only lower your financial stress, but also model healthy spending practices for your children. Another idea is drawing names for gift giving, which can be a great tradition, especially with extended family members. Establish a price limit that fits everyone’s budget and you’ve just lowered your holiday spending significantly. Homemade gifts are another great way to give, whether you’re baking cookies or burning a CD, gifts with a personal touch are fun and won’t break the bank. 

The Situation: My in-laws and I have very different opinions on parenting, politics and just about everything else. It always seems we end up in a heated debate—right in the middle of Christmas dinner. 

The Solution: Though you can’t control what your in-laws say, you can control how you respond. Make a commitment to ignore comments that usually incite a debate. Gracefully redirect the conversation to a neutral topic, or better yet, something positive. Be proactive and think of positive topics to bring up for discussion during the get-together. Ask for updates about their lives to take the conversation to a personal level and away from abstract ideas. Suggest an opening topic for dinner conversation such as having people share something they were grateful for over the past year, a challenge they overcame, or a personal goal for the next year. Creating a little structure for the meal can ensure everyone feels included, while focusing the conversation on a positive topic.

The Situation: ’Tis the season when loved ones gather, and I want everything to be perfect (the holiday meal, décor, etc.). I realize it’s inevitable that something will go wrong, but I can’t seem to relax.

The Solution: Perfectionism is a behavior directly related to self-esteem and control; you feel good only when everything is going exactly as you imagine it should. However, a focus on everything being perfect this holiday season will detract from your enjoyment of family and friends. Instead, do your best and remind yourself that your best is always good enough. Practice creating positive statements by shifting your thoughts from “it has to be perfect” to “I’m doing my best and that’s enough.” This change builds self-acceptance. Lastly, practice letting go of control. Remind yourself that it’s not your job to control the outcome of any given situation. Focus on the big picture, such as enjoying your gathering, and not the minor hiccups of the day. Ask yourself, “Will my concern matter tomorrow or in a week?”

Cheryl Mattox is a licensed marriage and family therapist in El Dorado Hills and works with a wide range of emotional and behavioral issues facing adults and couples. To contact her, call 916-833-3007 or visit

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