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How to Manage Holiday Expectations

The holiday season, for many of us, is a time to reflect on the last year and to enjoy hanging out with family and friends. But it's also a time when expectations can run high. And when those expectations fall short, it can leave us feeling down.

Psychiatrist Dr. Janet Taylor shared the advice below on "The Early Show" Friday on how to manage those expectations, yet still keep that holiday spirit alive over the coming weeks.

Special Section: Holiday Gift Guide

Believe in Magic, Stay Rooted in Reality

The holiday season is full of allure and hope and enthusiasm. But you can't get carried away. Take a step back and look at the circumstances of you and your loved ones. And really just enjoy the moment with family. Don't get involved in a situation where you make a commitment, financial or otherwise, you can't uphold. The same goes for any kind of emotional commitment. You don't want to put yourself in a situation where you're either letting yourself or someone else down.

Engagement Letdowns

Unless you've gone for measurements, and had that finger measured for a ring, don't anticipate an engagement, not even for a second! You might be setting yourself up for a big letdown, and that's the last thing you want this holiday season. Focus instead on the relationship, on being happy, on the love your share with your partner. Don't put undue pressure on your or your significant other and set yourself up for disappointment. If it's meant to be, it will happen. There's no need to put a timetable on it.

Create Meaningful Memories

The key to a stress-free, expectation free holiday season is spending time with loved ones and using that time to create lasting impressions and memories. And that's having things that are meaningful to you and your family and reminiscing about favorite past holiday memories. Maybe it's taking on a family project, such as making ornaments for the tree. Do something that creates good feelings and good memories.

Set a Budget

Instead of buying a gift for everyone in your family, maybe you put all the names in a hat and pick one person to buy a gift for. I remember one of the best Christmases we had as a family (I have four daughters), we all got $5, went to the dollar store and spent a dollar on each of the family members. And it was just so much fun and we were all really creative and all the gifts were thoughtful. It really meant a lot, but didn't cost much money at all.

How to Manage Kids' Expectations

As adults in the household, you control your kids' expectations, so lay down the rules right off the bat. Let everyone know things are tough, that there's going to be a budget, a limit on how much will be spent. Tell your kids to make a list, make it as long as they want. And tell them to check off the few things on the list that mean the most to them, but tell them they're not getting everything on the list. Let them know that some of the gifts on that list may be given to people less fortunate. Try to instill that sense of giving at an early age. Don't let marketers take over the household.

Do a Good Deed

Again, the holiday season isn't all about receiving, it's all about giving! And a wonderful way to do something as a family, as well as give back, is to volunteer at a soup kitchen, or gather up a bunch of clothes and toys to donate. Organizations need time and presence and doing this can really help us focus less on our own needs and focus more on the needs of others who are less fortunate.

Anticipate Conflict

Usually, it's the same suspects who create drama. Maybe they drink a little bit too much or have a bad attitude. You need to anticipate that. Don't let it throw you off. There are little changes you can make -- maybe switch to non alcoholic drinks. But don't let it ruin the time.

Try Something Different

Some people unfortunately enter holiday season with dread. Maybe it's bad memories from the past, and that's unfortunate. So try something different. Instead of going home, get with friends and call home. See if you can stay with a sister or cousin so you can still be there to celebrate but don't have to anticipate the bad stuff. If you try something different, you may be pleasantly surprised with the results.

Ask for Help

As is the case with just about all families, invariably it boils down to one person who feels in charge, who carries the burden of making sure everything is perfect. And that's just unfair to you and to everyone else in your family. You have other able bodied adults who can help carry some of the load. Let someone help, don't be afraid to ask. If your children are willing to help, let them! Taking on too much during the holidays can create a lot of unnecessary stress.

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