Article - Preparing for Family Gatherings
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Family traditions around the holiday season are special. They are familiar and comfortable. They remind everyone that as the world around them changes, some things will always stay the same. But as our families evolve and go through stages of aging and new life, are things really the same? Activities that once brought only joy can be the focus of anxiety, because some of the roles and functions of the gathering must change.
Those who once prepared the family meal might now find the task overwhelming. The sheer energy of the youngest generation might wear out the most senior generation. Visitors might need special accommodations to help them with eating, standing and other daily living activities. How do you approach the holidays while minimizing stress and strain for all?
The best thing to do is plan ahead.
Make sure that everyone who wants it has an important role to play. Do some advance planning around what needs to be done so that others can share in the responsibility for making the meal and handling the clean up. This includes pulling out the serving pieces and putting them back when the meal is over, which can be an exhausting task all by itself! If it is too difficult to share the meal preparation, arrange to pick up prepared food whenever possible. Supermarkets and restaurants can supply a portion or all of the fixings.
Plan to share the responsibility for those who may need special attention, from the youngest visitor to the oldest. Engaging others in caregiving activities gives them an opportunity to share a special moment with that family member as well as deepening their understanding of the needs. Be sure that all participants understand the tasks and procedures, from the best way to change a diaper to the correct way to help someone stand without causing injury to yourself.
Tip: Plan the flow of activities.
Accommodate varying needs and energy levels. For some members of the family, the gathering may be very tiring. You can prevent over-exertion either by shortening the length of the event or by scheduling quiet time for those who need it. Alternate the rowdy moments with more calm activities. Everyone loves to remember previous family occasions. Prepare scrapbooks of those photos from the last get-together. Share stories of the family and the history. Give those who can't remember the details of today a chance to share the stories of years gone by.
Encourage rest periods mid-way through or plan for quiet family games or TV time in another room that might give some members a chance to restore their energy. Here are some basic ideas:
Here's a special holiday thought:
Taking some time now to plan for a comfortable holiday gathering could very well mean a less stressful and more enjoyable event for the whole family.
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