Teaching Your Child

People, not presents, should be a holiday priority

People, not presents, should be a holiday priority

December 07, 2007|By LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

This holiday season my goal was to make the festivities as stress-free as possible.

I was doing well with that plan until the day before Thanksgiving. That was about the time that I ? probably many of you, too ? realized that it was the day before Thanksgiving and I wasn't quite as far along as I typically am at this time of year.

At first, thinking about it made me uncomfortable. I always plan ahead and am fairly well organized.

Then I thought about my goal.

No stress.

I wasn't going to let this slowing of the schedule get to me.

Last year on Thanksgiving Day, we posed for a family portrait in front of a fireplace glowing with a crackling fire. It was such a nice family portrait, we used it on our Christmas cards. The photo became the screen-saver on our computer.

This Thanksgiving, I don't think the camera made it out of its bag. Come to think of it, the camera never left the shelf.



But you know what? We haven't changed our looks that much, so we don't really need another family portrait taken right now.

With that attitude, I put together some guidelines for a reduced-stress holiday.

People are more important than programs or events.

Given a choice between attending a function or being with a friend, I will choose the latter. One of the best stress-relievers for me is a heart-to-heart with someone dear, especially if that someone shares the space you call home.

Some traditions can be skipped for a year.

Do we really need to send out family Christmas cards every year? Why not every other year? Or, better yet, we could pick out one family per month on our address list and send a handwritten letter to them.

Experiences are the best gifts.

This year, our family decided to give experiences ? tickets to shows, gift cards to restaurants and the like ? rather than things. The recipient can look forward to the event and to spending time with the giver. (After all, don't most people have enough stuff?)

Nice things come in small packages.

Sometimes just a bite of dessert will satisfy a sweet tooth. Finger foods make great finales. One piece of rich fudge feels decadent but not overindulgent, as a large piece of pecan pie might be. Which leads to the next idea ...

Sugar and spice are not always nice.

Most people eat too many sweets at this time of year. That extra sugar turns into extra pounds, which, at a minimum, makes our clothes tight and makes us feel sluggish. Instead, we should fill our plates with fruits and veggies whenever they are available. Feeling deprived? Treat yourself to dip and dressings. It is the holidays, after all.

Keep moving.

It's hard to fit in time to exercise, but that's the one thing that will keep our spirits up and our stress levels down. Only have 10 minutes? That's OK. Do some jumping jacks. Jog in place. Bundle up and take a walk outside.

Shop online.

It's easier to log on and have merchandise delivered to your doorstep. Many local stores have Web sites. Check them out. Try placing your order in the early hours of the day. You won't have to wait as long for Internet traffic, especially if you're in the computer dark ages of dial-up like I am.

Reserve time to reflect on what is important to you.

Your heart is revealed by how you spend your time. If you tell yourself family is a priority but you work instead of attending your child's Christmas program, your actions and your words do not match.

Decide what is important to you and create traditions to reflect that. You deserve that kind of life, and so do your loved ones.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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