Military life often pulls us away from our extended family members, and that can be especially hard over the holiday season. Holidays are hard enough without geographical separation, but being away can mean added stress, fewer helping hands, missing out on traditions and activities, and lots of feelings such as loneliness. But it’s times like these that military life offers us a gift of its own (albeit one we might not want), during the holidays, this gift is the opportunity to discover a new, favorite tradition.
Military life brings challenges, and the holiday season can be extra tough. Living far from “home” sometimes means celebrating apart from family and friends, even when together would be preferred. Following a few quick tips can help to survive the holidays away from family.
7 Tips to Help You Survive the Holidays Away from Family
1. Make a plan with remote family and friends.
Communication is key. Decide how to bring everyone together. This may mean scheduling video or phone calls. Another idea is to exchange a stack of notes and open one per day. For added fun, parents can hide notes for kids to find from grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends.
2. Make a plan with local and friends.
Don’t forget the people you do have close! This could be a spouse, kids, pets, neighbors, or someone you just met. Schedule a fun event with friends, like movie night, game night, or cooking and eating together. Set aside a day to spend with just the family living in your home. Sometimes private holidays and friend holidays turn out to be just as wonderful as big, extended family holidays.
3. Talk with the kids.
Kids may have their own opinions and wants around the holidays. What are their priorities? Make them part of the planning process. They may come up with some of the best and most creative ideas.
4. Mail in advance.
Mail takes longer around the holidays. Carriers are inundated with increased shipping, and winter storms cause delays. Plan ahead. Mail anything time sensitive extra early and remind others to do the same. If it’s already too late, send an email with a printable card or letter. Need something more? Include a planned gift hint in the note, or send an UberEats or DoorDash meal.
5. Gift outside the box.
Toys and physical things tend to lose excitement fast, and they are more to move to the next duty station. Consider gifting experiences, and encourage family members to do the same. What local attractions require ticket purchases? Pick some up in advance and wrap them. Get gift cards to restaurants and tuck them into envelopes with notes about adventure plans. For example, plan fun trips for the sledding, a playground, or hiking with with lunch or dinner before or after. Coordinate with faraway gift-givers and offer to pick up local supplies for them, like zoo tickets for grandparents to give to kids.
6. Set aside time for emotions and relaxation.
Negative emotions and stress can ruin holidays. Make time for things that help, like warm baths, spending time alone, exercise, walks, writing in a journal, and talking with friends and family. Schedule it, and put it in your calendar. Allow yourself to feel the emotions you need to feel, and then choose to feel the emotions you want to feel. Bonus: Make sure to get enough sleep.
7. Try your best to keep an open mind and positive attitude.
If you search for opportunities you will find them. Make the best of the situation by enjoying the good in the local area and taking advantage of ways to connect with those far away.
Why just survive the holidays away from family when you can bring them close with technology and creativity, and really enjoy the season? Holidays aren’t about making everything perfect; they’re about finding and creating the perfect parts. Unconventional holidays can be just as wonderful.
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out Making Christmas Work When You Aren’t Home for the Holidays