It’s difficult to manage expectations at most any time, but it can be even more difficult at Christmas. Kids expect certain gifts under the tree: exactly what they wrote down on their Christmas list. Parents expect the perfect family gathering when everyone comes home for the holidays: no arguing, no fights, no misbehavior. Families expect the coming Christmas to replicate the treasured and cherished ones of the past: when the perfect moments came together, everyone got along, and the gifts were those once-in- a-lifetime, well-thought-out possessions.
In my experience, every church has at least one family that has exceptionally high expectations. They expect their pastor to be a mind-reader, to show up at the exact moment they want him, they want a phone call immediately after church wondering where they were if they have missed just once, and they are furious if their unrealistically high expectations aren’t met. It’s a tough standard to live up to.
The experiences I’ve had have taught me a bit about how to manage expectations, and how to manage those who have high expectations. My more than fifty years of Christmases have, as well. This holiday season, consider these five suggestions as you navigate potential land mines and find your way to a truly merry Christmas:
- Lower your expectations. The lower your expectations, the easier it will be to have them exceeded. It’s very difficult to replicate the past, so don’t expect things to be the way they were before. Recognize and understand that with time, things change. Accept that change with lower expectations of the way things will be and you will have a much happier holiday.
- Go with the flow. If things go in a direction that make you uncomfortable or uneasy with family members, do your best to go with it and salvage the situation. Instead of digging in your heals, go along for the ride. Be the bigger person. When our kids were little they didn’t want to ride roller coasters. When we finally got them on the rides their fears turned into laughter and exuberant screams. Roller coasters are scary, but in the end they’re actually fun (for most people). There will be ups and downs this holiday season. Turn your terror into laughter. Go with the flow. Have fun.
- Retain your sense of humor. When you go with the flow you can find humor in things that otherwise might make you mad. Put a smile on your face to help diffuse the situations that annoy you. Your heart and mind will follow the smile on your face, and the whole situation will be better for it. Some well-placed humor will diffuse most any tense situation.
- Create new memories. Since we can’t replicate the good times of the past, go into the holiday expecting to make new memories. Come up with some new games to play, places to go, or traditions to create. Introduce them to your family and friends with a positive attitude and set the tone for the time together.
- Get some “me” time. If things get out of hand (from your perspective), use your common sense to remove yourself from the situation. Instead of allowing things to escalate, your “me time” will put out a lit fuse. Take some time, some deep breaths, read a book, or listen to some music. Then reintroduce yourself with a better attitude. You will feel better, and your family and friends will be thankful that the gathering has a preponderance of Christmas peace.
Make this year’s holiday a season to remember…for all the right reasons.
How do you manage expectations during the holiday season?