Parenting Through the Holidays: A Survival Kit

Image via Katie Hurley

The holiday season is full of reasons to smile. The lights are bright and cheery. Candy is everywhere. Kids sing happy tunes and craft adorable projects at school. Yes, the world feels just a little bit brighter during the holiday season. But if you take a closer look, the world also seems a little bit more stressed.

Patience wears thin. Cars drive a little faster. Lines seem a little longer. To-do lists feel never ending, and commitments seem to pop up every weekend. The holiday season can be exceptionally busy, and that leads to increased stress.

The holiday season can actually be fairly exhausting for kids, and that makes for tired families.

The buildup seems to begin earlier and earlier each year, and that makes for a long holiday. Between late nights for parties and performances and constant overstimulation, kids often end up exhausted and sick by the time the holiday actually occurs.

It's essential to focus on family and consistency during this busy holiday season and to help kids learn to enjoy the small moments along the way.

holiday stress
Image via iStock

Adjust your expectations

I had my first holiday disappointment of the season last week. My being stretched a bit thin and pulled in many directions, my Christmas cards did not come out as planned. Not a big deal, but just not what I meant to order. I was disappointed for a moment. I really love giving and receiving holiday cards, so I usually take great care to create something special.

I'm not sure when holiday perfection became a thing, but I sometimes feel the pull to get everything just right. That only adds to my stress level and reduces the overall magic of the season. This year, I learned to adjust my expectations.

We can't create the perfect holiday. Someone will probably get sick. Someone will cry. Something will be forgotten. Some family members might argue. Maybe the stars will align and everything will feel just right — but maybe not.

Adjust your expectations. Give your kids a break if they melt down in the middle of a party. Give yourself a break if you forget to do something or if your holiday cards aren't what you wanted. Obstacles happen — it's how we handle obstacles that matter.

Image via Flickr/ ivyfield

Take a social media break

Social media can be a great way to stay connected, and if you love holiday-themed pictures, Instagram and Facebook will bring you lots of smiles. But if the constant stream of pictures of perceived perfection leaves you feeling a little less than perfect, it's time for a social media break.


The pull to remain connected online actually leaves us less connected in real life. The holiday season is about family and togetherness. Resist the draw to hide out online, and increase your face-to-face connections instead.

{ MORE: Easy and (Mostly) Free Ways to Indulge in Self-Care Without Leaving Home }

toddler and santa
Image via iStock

Get back to basics

Given the endless events, parties, and holiday activities that pop up this time of year, it's a common practice for kids to load up on sweets and cut back on sleep. This weekend was so busy that my kids are completely exhausted and on the verge of colds.

Get back to basics. Your kids need healthy food, exercise, downtime, and sleep to thrive during this busy time. Make sure their basic needs are met first, then head to the party of choice. You won't have any fun if your kids are in meltdown mode, and the best way to avoid a meltdown is to focus on the basics.

Eat. Sleep. Play. Repeat.

candy cane cookies
Image via EF Eats/Kelly Pugliano

Prioritize family fun at home

Parades are fun. So are holiday parties, concerts, and visits with Santa. But you don't have to attend every fun-filled holiday event in town to enjoy the holiday season. In fact, you might enjoy season more if you learn to slow down.

My favorite holiday memories involve decorating the tree and baking cookies. We did those things as a family — just the six of us. Slow down and create holiday fun at home with your family. Craft if you like crafting. Bake if you like baking. Sing, dance, or simply enjoy hot chocolate by the fire.

The memories are in the moments. Enjoy the smallest of moments and watch your stress fade away.

{ MORE: Worried About Family Around Your Baby This Holiday? Uses These Phrases to Respond to Tough Situations! }

Baby wearing a Santa hat
Image via iStock

Learn to say no

Having a husband who travels a lot has taught me a lot about saying no. When I'm on my own with the kids, there is only so much I can do. I say no when I know that something is just too much.

It can be hard to say no during the holiday season. It's nice to be invited to parties, and it's hard to miss out. Learn how to say no. The truth is that you have to think about what works for your family during this time. Some families can go and go and go, but others need to hit the brakes.

Setting limits is an important stress-reduction tool. Kids are only human, and they don't know when to stop. It's up to us to help them learn to hit the brakes and step away from the action so that they can enjoy the holiday season.

{ MORE: 5 Fun Easter Desserts To Make With The Kids }


What helps you reduce stress during the holiday season?

Read More

What do you think?

Parenting Through the Holidays: A Survival Kit

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

Tell us what you think!

× Week-by-Week Newsletter

Receive weekly updates on your pregnancy or new baby’s development as well as Free Stuff, Special Offers, Product Samples, Coupons, Checklists and Tools you can use today, and more from EverydayFamily! Plus all new members are entered to win FREE diapers for a year! Receive weekly updates on your pregnancy or new baby’s development as well as Free Stuff, Special Offers, Product Samples, Coupons, Checklists and Tools you can use today, and more from EverydayFamily! Plus all new members are entered to win FREE diapers for a year!

Due Date or Baby's Birth Date

By clicking the "Join Now" button you are agreeing to the terms of use and privacy policy.

Send this to a friend