You Don’t Have to Do It All: The Benefits of Simplifying the Holiday

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I will never forget the year of the holiday stomach flu. My kids were toddlers and I was looked forward to weeks of holiday magic. I had it all planned: The parade, the tree lighting, the cookies, the carefully wrapped gifts placed under the tree. It was the first year they could both truly enjoy the excitement of the season, and I couldn’t wait for it.

Four days before Christmas, my son came down with the stomach flu. I was next. Then my daughter and my husband in the early hours of Christmas. We hardly opened any gifts. The excitement, the magic, the smell of fresh-baked cookies all took a backseat to dehydration, calls to the doctor, and finding the one pharmacy open on Christmas day. Two days later we quietly opened our gifts together. The day after that, we baked the cookies. That was the Christmas we learned that holidays can be moved and all we really need is each other. It was also the year that I learned a very real lesson when it comes to the holidays: Less is more.

With best intentions, parents everywhere feel the pressure to embrace the spirit of the season. From parties to services to events all over town, no matter the holiday you celebrate, the options are endless.

While all the baking and parties and gift exchanges are fun in the moment, they’re also exhausting. We all know that tired kids aren’t the happiest kids around, so it makes good sense to cut back on the stress of the season and focus on enjoying the small moments instead.

Pick and choose

There’s no rule that you have to say yes to every party invitation. Sure, big gatherings of friends and family can be fun, but you don’t have to attend every single one. Weigh the invitations carefully. Consider timing, travel, and other commitments. It’s perfectly acceptable to 6send your regrets with an offer to plan a get together after the holiday season.

{ MORE: Happy Holidays: 4 Joyful Traditions to Start This Year! }

Skip the elaborate crafts

When Pinterest first emerged, I thought I had finally found what I needed from the Internet. I pinned endless crafts, recipes, and birthday party ideas. And then I abandoned my account and promptly forgot the password. It’s fun to do holiday crafts with kids, and sometimes they make some incredible things. I still use the fall mason jar candles my son made in first grade. But not every craft has to be complicated. In fact, kids come up with some great holiday crafts on their own when we provide them with supplies and time.

Less is more

I don’t know when the holidays became synonymous with piles of stuff, but a few thoughtful and meaningful gifts bring just as much joy (and probably more) as endless piles of stuff. For older kids, day trips and museum memberships can be just as joyous a gift as sports equipment and gadgets. And for younger children think toys and other items that will be played with over and over again.

{ MORE: Holiday Traditions to Start with Your Kids NOW }

Healthy is happy

It’s no big secret that the key to healthy kids is sleep, healthy eating, and plenty of time to play and enjoy downtime. You work hard all year keep your kids rested and healthy; don’t throw it all away on a few late nights for fear of missing out. The older your kids get, the more opportunities you will have to push the bedtime and enjoy evening holiday activities. Stick to their routines while they’re little. This will keep them healthy and happy throughout the season.

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You Don’t Have to Do It All: The Benefits of Simplifying the Holiday

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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