By Judy Davis, Military Spouse

While family and friends are getting excited about the upcoming holiday season, many of us in the military community are just thankful that we aren’t living out of a suitcase waiting for our household goods to arrive. The holidays can be stressful, and we all need tips to get thru them during a “normal” year. But when it feels like we are replacing the hustle and bustle of PCS season with the expectations and pressure of making the holidays special, it can be pretty daunting.

Family Holiday

For one it was A LOT quieter especially during the years our soldier was deployed. Other times we were too far away to go home. But the hardest holidays were definitely the ones that happened shortly after a PCS move. Creating a holiday feeling, honoring our traditions and making memories when it is “just us” is really hard.  And putting forth an effort of unpacking holiday “stuff” only to know I had to repack it in 5 weeks was something I was just too exhausted to really want to make.

So how do you make the holidays special when a PCS has depleted your battery? When you know, it’s not going to feel like your families’ experiences of the past? What do you do when you can’t make the trip back to family, and you haven’t found a group of friends that you can celebrate with?

Cut Yourself a Break!

You give yourself permission to do things very differently, and you create a holiday that works for you and your family in this moment. Here are some tips to help you do just that:

Acknowledge that things will be different.

Be sad if you must, but don’t get caught up in the idea that different is bad or less than ideal. No one way of celebrating is better than another.

Focus on the fact that your PCS has provided you an opportunity to celebrate the holidays your way.

No more green jello mold that no one likes but you have to have it because you always have. You have a clean slate to try something new that is unique to your household. Embrace it!

Get creative and work together to do something totally unique.

Sit down and plan a day filled with new traditions and activities that will be for the times when it’s “JUST US.” Maybe it’s walking thru the woods collecting sticks and making a bonfire or craft. It could be making a huge “game day” spread that has nothing to do with turkey/stuffing. Perhaps you’d prefer to spend the day making Christmas gifts and decorating the tree? The possibilities are endless and trust me the kids will be excited if it’s not business as usual.

Remember to make it fun.

Get everyone involved and don’t be attached if your holiday is completely different from the Hallmark expectation. Different can be fantastic and even more memorable.

Manage Expectations

So often the disappointment during the holidays comes from expectations of how things should be and not living up to it. But when you allow yourself and your family to think outside of the box to create something uniquely special, an amazing thing happens. Together you find a way to celebrate the moment in a whole new way. And that is what it’s all about.

Being a military family sometimes means things like the holidays aren’t the same as they’ve always been. And we have a choice. We can sit in the house and focus on how unfair and sad we are, or we can create a moment that works.

I choose to create a moment that works. And when it’s “just us” I vow to spend the holidays differently than I do my every days and I hope you do too.

Judy Davis, the Direction Diva, is a motivational speaker, author, and lifestyle blogger as well as a military life and teen suicide prevention expert. Co-founder of, Judy’s books Right Side Up  and Warning Signs: Is Your Teen at Risk and websites are go to resources for families and are filled with tips, inspiration and resources for those looking for direction. 

Judy Davis

Military Spouse