The holiday season is here. The Holidays leave more opportunities for disappointment for unmet expectations than almost any other time of the year. 

This can be true for kids:  “That wasn’t the toy I asked Santa for”, “This toy looked so cool on you tube but it’s not fun in real life”, “My sister didn’t like the gift I worked hard to make”, “The adults lied about Santa”, etc.
This can be true for parents:  I worked so long to make Christmas special and instead we all have a stomach virus, I was so excited for my parents to visit, and they’ve done nothing but criticize us since they got here, I want to give my kids picture perfect holidays but we’re going to have to max out our credit cards to do it and the list goes on…
This can be true for couples:  People pressuring them to have a baby or even cracking jokes about why they don’t have kids or work less and enjoy their ‘empty nest’ since their kids went to college and the transition has been hard.
This can be true for single people:  Who are still relegated to the kid’s table or are pressured to be set up with Aunt Margie’s neighbor and whose offer to host a holiday isn’t taken seriously.
This can be true for college students and emerging adults: whose presence and views aren’t taken seriously yet again by those whose acceptance is personally important. Or they are suddenly categorized as ‘an adult’ for cooking or gift giving and they may not have the finances to be able to contribute like others do.
This can be true for those grieving a loss. They feel the reality that even in the most ‘Hallmark’ moments of the season your person who is missing is amplified and you feel like breaking down in the midst of the merriment.
In order to manage expectations:
1.  Fill your calendar intentionally. It is so easy to become overwhelmed and overscheduled this time of year. Make it a point as early as possible to put every holiday event or party on your calendar and to add in the appropriate time for tasks related to these events like cleaning, shopping, cooking/baking, gift-wrapping, commuting to and from these events, etc. so you have a more realistic picture of what you are committing to do. This will lead to a more calm and less stressed and resentful atmosphere overall because you have the resources to commit to the things you have agreed to do. 
2. Talk to the people in your life about what matters most to you and what matters most to them. Sometimes we do things because we’ve always done them when really the kids are bored by driving around looking at Christmas lights or because we think things are really important to our partner (like their company Holiday party, when actually, it doesn’t matter that much to them). If you or your family/partner are wanting to have a paired down holiday season this year or just to be more focused, intentionally making a prioritized list of all the events and then eliminating a select number can be a helpful process. 
3.  Have a script or answer for difficult questions or moments.
If you know you’re going to be facing the “When are y’all going to have a baby question” maybe you want a quippy boundary setter like, “Not in the next 9 months, I can tell you that!” or maybe you need to set a firmer line, “When and if I/we choose to have a baby is personal, please respect our privacy.”
4. Have built in quiet moments or self-care moments. 
Even the most laid-back person can become overwhelmed by the busy schedule, crowded parties, shops and traffic, the rich foods and constant barrage of holiday music. Make time to be in quiet spaces and to take care of yourself and your family in whatever way that looks like for you. 
5.  Focus on what you can do and make those things really fun. Some of the things we love are the big (expensive) events: great seats at the Nutcracker, a lavish Christmas dinner, ICE! at the Gaylord but some of the smaller events that pass us by are just as important if not more for our core memories. Making safganiyot (donuts for Hanukkah) with your kids using your Bubbe’s recipe, singing Silent Night at the candlelight service on Christmas eve, having a festive cocktail while you and your bestie wrap gifts for your families. 

The bottom line is the holidays can be just as memorable and perhaps even more so, when you intentionally choose how to spend your time, finances and emotional energy instead of over-scheduling and over-spending.  This provides more room for gratitude and peace and hopefully less room for burnout and disappointment.