When my son, Nick, was young, I’d call this day, “Nicky’s Day.” We played hooky and would do whatever he liked. Twenty years later, we still remember those special times. A day like this goes a long way.
Let them decorate by themselves. Smaller children often feel left out when it comes time for decorating for the holidays -- there's so many things they can’t do or can’t touch. Many shops sell tiny fake trees, no more than two feet high, for about $10 or less. If your budget allows, you can purchase a small, live tree, which you can plant outside once the holidays are over.
Let each child have a tree and an inexpensive string of tiny lights (help your child put the lights on his or her personal tree). Now for the decorations. Let the children decorate their trees with anything they find -- pinecones, old toys, paper snowflakes they make themselves, gingerbread cookies (unless you have a dog.) Leave it entirely up to them. All you have to do is exclaim, “How pretty!” and be sure to take photographs. Put the trees in their rooms when they're done.
When in comes to teenagers and seniors, things get a little tougher. In fact, for a lot of us, that extra holiday stress often comes from these two sources. The thing to remember here is that seniors and teenagers often do not see the holidays in the same way as children or other adults: Teens want to opt out of a lot of family functions, and seniors tend to do the opposite, getting clingy at this time of year.
One way to relieve some of the stress of the holiday is to take your teen, parent, or in-law to lunch or dinner, just the two of you. This meal is not the time to talk about what's wrong -- don't bring up that awful haircut / boyfriend / grade /attitude / uncomfortable family situation. When having lunch with your teen, talk about films, music, or any of the teen’s other interests. If you’re brave, ask your teenage daughter, “What do you think I should do with my hair?” Or, “What colors do you think look best on me?” Ask her for her opinion on politics or a current event. Ask your teenage son to help you undertand his favorite songs. Bite your tongue if you disagree with your teenager's perspective. Just say, “I never thought of it that way.” You never know, you might learn something and your teen will be so shocked that this lunch is not a “We need to talk” date, that he or she will relax and might even have fun.
This sort of lunch and conversation works well with older generations, too. Bring your thick skin with you under your winter coat, and don’t take any suggestions as criticisms. If they are criticisms, well then, just eat light in case of stomach cramps, and keep your sense of humour. If you do, you never know, you might walk away from the meal arm-in-arm.