Expectations. Have you ever noticed that if you expect something to go a certain way, it’s almost a guarantee that it won’t? Like when your infant is finally sleeping through the night and you stay up that extra couple of hours because you expect her to sleep the eight-hour stretch she’s been sleeping for the last two weeks? Then bam! She wakes up four times that night. Yeah, that.

Letting go of, or managing, expectations can also ease the potential stress of the holiday season.

My husband and I have learned this, although admittedly it took a few family fights and more than a couple of Christmas cry-fests. When you’re traveling with young kids—which we do every year to see both of our families—and your whole schedule gets up-ended, expecting the holidays to be all love and light and for the kids to be calm and collected is a bit far-fetched. Or so I’ve come to realize.

So how can we enjoy the holidays, and at the same time let go of or manage expectations when there are celebrations galore, treats on every table (a child’s sugar-tooth dream), and differing personalities and emotions abound?

Plan Ahead. We take a little time before each holiday gathering to troubleshoot any potential pitfalls. For example: if Auntie Jillian is notorious at setting dinnertime for 5pm, but never puts food out until 7pm, we bring a cooler of snacks for the kids so they don’t get jacked up on the dishes of chocolate M&Ms that are lying around. Or if we’ve got a particularly hectic couple of days visiting relatives and going to parties, we book off a day where nothing is on the calendar and we can stay in our pajamas until bedtime.

A Little Laughter. The holiday season can hold many highs, but is sometimes a reminder of the lows of the year that has passed. Finding humour and letting things stay light can help ease difficult situations.

Be Present. If we can let go of expectations and wanting to control how things turn out, we can give ourselves the best gift of the holidays: the ability to enjoy each moment as it comes. Because during the holiday season, joy really is in the moments.

Need more tips for a happy holiday? Read about the power of setting an intention for yourself or you family this Christmas.

Looking for holiday inspiration? Visit the YMC Holiday Guide to find everything from sweet treats and delicious dishes to DIY décor and favourite family movies. If it’s holiday related, you’ll find it there.