How to Break the News When Your Family Holiday Traditions Need a Tune-Up

How to Break the News When Your Family Holiday Traditions Need a Tune-Up

Family holiday traditions can be the glitter glue that holds all the precious moments of the season together. But when a tradition that was once part of the holiday magic begins to feel like a stressful expectation, it might be time for a holiday tradition tune-up.

Now you just have to break the news to your family.

Talking about changing long-standing holiday traditions can strike fear in the heart of even the strongest among us. Why? Because we hate disappointing our loved ones – or worse, hurting their feelings – any time of the year. But during the holidays? That seems especially hard to imagine.

But when life changes and family holiday traditions don’t change with it, we can find ourselves feeling like Scrooge, bah-humbugging our way through every holiday party and event. Saying yes when we want to say no. Overscheduling our time and overspending our budget. And not feeling much of that holiday magic our long-standing traditions are supposed to bring.

So we know we need to talk about it. But how do we tell the in-laws that Christmas morning won’t be happening at their house this year? Or break it to the extended family that we won’t be home for the holidays? How do we say it’s time for a change?

It helps to have a plan.

First things first. Before you call off this year’s 12-hour cookie baking extravaganza, take some time to think about what parts of the holidays are working for you and your family.

What are the nonnegotiable traditions for your holidays to feel like the holidays?

Talk with your spouse and adult children and decide together the things you treasure most. What do you want to hold on to? And what could you do without?

Decide together what your ideal holiday would look like then take your ideas to God.

How to Break the News When Your Family Holiday Traditions Need a Tune-Up

Ask God to give you an open mind and heart to think about anything new He might like you to try this year. Get creative and think of ways you might be able to compromise or turn an old way of doing something into a new way of doing it. And ask Him to show you anything you might need to let go of if your expectations of a perfect holiday might be turning up your stress.

Choose the best approach.

Once you’ve got your ideas together, along with a few new suggestions, think about how you would like to approach your family. If they appreciate humor, use humor. If they’re more direct, be direct.

We often beat around the bush because we want to avoid saying something hard and end up leaving everyone confused about what we’re trying to tell them. Not surprisingly, this often leads to more hurt feelings than if we had simply said what we needed to say. Don’t leave the impression that you want to stop what you’ve been doing without presenting some ideas for what you would like to try instead.

Acknowledge any disappointment, but don’t let your fear of disappointing others keep you stuck.

If your family’s traditions are no longer adding joy to your holidays, it’s time for a change. So don’t be put off by the fear of disappointing others.

The truth is that it’s probably not possible to please everyone. Someone will feel let down. But we need to recognize that every time we say yes to something we don’t want to do or commit our entire family to an event that no one enjoys, the people we’re letting down are the ones closest to us. That’s why it’s so important to start with them. Remember, you talked about what would work for you and your family. Now is the time to stick to the decisions you made together.

Keep things flexible.

Think of flexibility as a gift you can give and ask to receive during the holiday season.

Whatever suggestions you make for changing things up, be sure to communicate your willingness to stay flexible. Perhaps suggest trying something new or different for just this year and see how things go. Then schedule a time together after the holidays to talk about what worked and didn’t work for everyone.

As your family grows and changes over time, you might decide to bring back some of your old family traditions that don’t work right now. Or you might discover together that the new way of doing things becomes the new tradition everyone looks forward to.

Remember why family holiday traditions matter.

How to Break the News When Your Family Holiday Traditions Need a Tune-Up

Family traditions create the moments that can add magic to our holidays. But what makes them so magical is how they bring us together to celebrate the season with the ones we love. And being together with our loved ones is always what matters most. So be there. Fully present without feeling the burden of obligation or expectation dragging you down.

You might be surprised to discover that others have been feeling the stress, too.

Your family, friends, and extended family might all be ready to try doing the holidays differently. And they might be delighted that you were brave enough to say so first.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. (Proverbs 25:11 ESV)

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  1. WOW! You hit it right on the button Jody! When we moved to Spokane 35 years ago we made it a priority to always head back to the Grove so that our kids could have the total family experience with both sets of family. It wasn’t until we pulled out of our driveway when our kiddos were high school that they said to us,”We haven’t spent one Christmas Eve or Christmas Day in our own home.” It was that year that we made a HUGE tradition change and made it a priority to be AT HOME for our family traditions to begin. Yes, many family members didn’t understand, and yes many mixed feelings and emotions. Still have the issues with it, but we needed to establish our own family traditions. If family wants to venture here, we are all for it. They all have the luxury of having their families near them, and we have kids from one coast to the other. So our time together as “Our” family is priceless.

    In the past two years with this cancer journey we are more than ever determined to keep our family time during the holidays a treasured time. And anything that causes extra stress is God still small voice nudging us daily to rethink those things through!

    1. Eileen – how wonderful that you were able to respond to your kiddos when they voiced their desire to spend Christmas at home and establish some new traditions for your family. It’s always hard when others aren’t on board, but what wonderful things happen in our families when we dial back from everything we feel like we “should” be doing and focus on what works best for those closest to our hearts. Treasure stored up that will last forever! I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  2. Thanks, Jody, as always. I am modifying this year too and I needed this for reinforcement. Love you so much, my voice of reason..xo

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