Have your home ready
Also, take a moment to address any small problems around the house that could derail your fun. If that toilet in the guest bathroom simply won’t stop running, for example, look up “best plumber near me” online. Make sure you carefully read customer reviews to ensure you’re getting top-shelf service. The point, of course, is to address the smaller issues before the holidays are in full swing so those little problems don’t become huge pains.
Stop stressing over gifts
The first step is researching the hottest holiday toys for every little boy and girl on your list. Check prices before you shop — if you must head out to snag a deal, make sure it’s worth the time and effort.
If online shopping won’t cut it or you won’t be seeing loved ones in person, a gift card can go a long way, particularly if it’s digital. Plan ahead and grab a few gift cards to various stores or websites so you’re prepared if an extra person makes an appearance (virtual or otherwise) during the festivities.
Get out of the kitchen (or bring the family in)
You can streamline meal prep and even encourage others to participate by making things simpler. Think about buying a quality can opener and healthy canned foods to pop open for side dishes to your main course. Even a manual can opener can make opening food easier, and extra features come in handy when you’re struggling to plate a meal fast.
But beyond equipment and grocery shopping, inviting your family to help prep is another way to make mealtime engaging and rewarding. Making cookies with young children (or even adult ones), cooking a favorite family recipe for an appetizer, or trying something totally different (like Chinese food or even BBQ) can turn the traditional holiday dinner on its head.
Dial-in your tech in advance
Depending on the size of the group that’s gathering, you might plan an online itinerary ahead of time. You can play games together online (charades can be fun over video chat), share family stories, or do the same craft at the same time.
Whatever activities you decide to enjoy for your family’s holiday event, connection and caring should be your priority. Whether that means a video chat with each far-flung family member or an in-person gathering following a super-cautious quarantine period, you can make it work for you and your loved ones — maybe with even less stress than last year.
David B. Younger, Ph.D. is the creator of Love After Kids, for couples that have grown apart since having children. He is a clinical psychologist and couples therapist with a web-based private practice and lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, 16-year-old son, 7-year-old daughter and 9-year-old toy poodle.