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 | By Dr. Cathleen McGreal

Is Christmas Making You Crazy?

How to Be a More Peaceful Parent

As we pray for international peace during the Advent season, parents often have immediate concerns for preparing a tranquil family Christmas. I’ve found Advent challenging because it coincides with deadlines for exams and grades. When my four children were young, I began spreading Christmas shopping over months, searching for bargains. Now that they make purchases on their own as Christmas nears, I wonder if I’ve done a “good job.” I start balancing amounts in my head. Is this fair? Should I make one more purchase? Even things out? I have to rein myself in, reminding myself that when the voice cries, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him” (Mt 3:3) it doesn’t mean we prepare by shopping for just gifts to give one another in honor of Jesus’ birth! The straight path is an interior preparation, and peace comes from our relationship with God.

Allow time as parents to experience the gentle guidance of the Shepherd.

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” ( Isaiah 40:11) Many a stained glass window shows the comforting sight of Jesus carrying a lamb. But it is reassuring to know that he is guiding parents as well. How is God relating to you as a parent this Advent? Are there discoveries that will lead to stronger relationships or healing in the family? The parenting journey is one that lasts a lifetime. Has a younger generation expressed interest in hosting the Christmas dinner? Has there been a spiraling trend toward more expensive gifts? It may be that, despite the gentleness of the dialogue, there are prospects of change that seem disconcerting. Following God’s will might not feel “peaceful” at first because it runs contrary to our habits.

“A heart at peace gives life to the body ... ” (Proverbs 14:30)

There are many physical demands to parenthood, as Mary and Joseph knew well during their journey to Bethlehem, Jesus’ birth in the stable and the flight to Egypt. Parents struggle to get up night after night with newborns, wondering when the baby is going to sleep through the night. Preschoolers have bad dreams and there are long nights tending to feverish children. Parents of adolescents catch catnaps waiting for teens to come home from dates. Sometimes “empty” nests are re-feathered and grandparents help out young families. Being a parent can be exhausting! This Christmas season, try to find one personal activity that brings your own heart peace. Make time for prayer and connect with your church community –  it may help bring life to your body!