Focus on the Family by Jim Daly

Temper Your Expectations to Manage Stress During the Holidays

Q: We moved into a new (larger) house this year. So for the first time at Christmas, the entire extended family will be under one roof: ours. What can we do to manage the stress of hosting?

Jim: This should be the most joyous time of the year -- but often it's the most stressful. I think a big reason is the amount of expectation we pour into the holidays.

We put expectations on ourselves and our family members, and they have expectations for how they want things to go as well. It's a special time of year, and we want the house to be perfect, the gifts to be perfect, the meals to be perfect. Everything must go off without a hitch.

The trouble is, holidays rarely work out as perfectly as we'd like because there are too many variables that can go wrong. And the moment our expectations get dashed, then stress, disappointment and conflict aren't far behind.

The most obvious solution is to lower your expectations. Of course, that can be a little tricky because we often don't realize just how high our expectations really are until it's too late. The best way to defuse that problem is to talk about everything ahead of time.

So as you're finalizing your Christmas get-together this year, talk with your spouse or other family members about how you hope things will go. And then proactively discuss how you can adapt if (when) necessary. It may not seem like much, but conversations like that can make a big difference. They'll help you put things in their proper perspective. And those lowered expectations can create just enough wiggle room for you to stay calm when things go differently than you expect.

Q: My 10- and 13-year-old kids have been pushing me to let them watch PG-13 movies. Most reviews I find don't tell much about aspects of the films' content that concern me as a mom. I'm afraid my older kids' attraction to these movies will influence my younger ones (ages 5 and 8). Help!

Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: A crucial task of parenting is guiding our children in areas where their thoughts and character are being impacted. Ultimately, we don't just want our kids to exhibit right behaviors; they need to internalize the right principles that then direct those actions and attitudes.

Sadly, the values portrayed in popular media are often not the best ones for children to adopt, so we've got to pay close attention to what they're taking in. Since they'll be making more and more of their own choices as they get older, it's vital that they learn to exercise discernment for themselves regarding entertainment.

The good news: You are the most influential voice in your children's lives. Take time to discuss your family's values and compare/contrast them with those in popular entertainment. Remind your kids that their choices impact not only their thoughts, life and character, but also the mental processes that influence those thoughts and character. Help them take ownership of their minds, their decisions and their lives.

On that note, talk about personal freedom -- not just the liberty to choose what they want to watch, but the ability to choose well. Highlight that their choices affect not only themselves, but also their younger siblings, who are looking up to and being influenced by them -- for good or bad.

One helpful tool in teaching (and exercising) wise media discernment is, where you can read detailed reviews of movies, television programs and music. Take time to discuss the reviews together.

Teaching entertainment discernment requires time and effort, but you can do it and it's worth it!

Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at or at


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