What Parents Need to Know about Holiday Stress and Kids


One in five parents say their stress level ruins the holidays for their kids, according to a C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital national poll. We want to think of the holidays as joyful, but they can also be a challenging time for many families.

Each year, the TV ads seem to start sooner, and the toys cost more. There are also new pressures now with trying to avoid crowds and deal with a possible recession.

How can you celebrate the season without becoming overwhelmed?

Try these tips for making the holidays more peaceful for you and your family.

Setting Reasonable Expectations

Are you trying to keep up with Martha Stewart and Instagram stars? Your kids may not even notice if you serve fewer side dishes and quit wearing matching outfits they’ll outgrow by next year.

Try these techniques:

1. Clarify priorities. Be selective about which activities and events you participate in. Ask yourself what gives your family the most joy. Give your kids options to choose from.

2. Share responsibilities. Help your family work together as a team. Share the load with your partner. Assign age-appropriate jobs to each child and put them in charge of their own areas.

3. Stick to your budget. Spend only what you can afford, so you won’t have to start the New Year deep in debt. That might mean shortening your gift list or saving money ahead of time for holiday expenses.

4. Take time off. If possible, request a day or two of leave time to help you squeeze additional commitments into your schedule. Use the time to get organized and work on lengthier projects.

Practicing Seasonal Self-Care

There’s a tendency to abandon healthy habits during the holidays. However, protecting your mental and physical health will make your life easier.

Use these strategies to help protect your health during the Holidays:

1. Limit sweets. Enjoy your favorite holiday treats without going overboard. Watch your portion sizes and eat a balanced diet the rest of the day.

2. Drink responsibly. Parties and stress can lead to consuming more alcohol than you intended. Make a plan and write it down, like allowing yourself a maximum of 2 cocktails a night.

3. Be active. You might not have much time to visit the gym and take fitness classes. Try taking your kids ice skating or snowshoeing. Wake up early and exercise at home while they’re still asleep.

4. Maintain routines. Do you relax the rules about bedtimes, snacks, and watching TV when school is out? A consistent schedule may help your family stay nourished and rested.

Cultivating Social Connections

Your favorite holiday memories probably have more to do with your family and friends, rather than any expensive gifts.

Show your love and appreciation with these strategies:

1. Bond with loved ones. Focus on spending time with each other. Engage in long conversations. Bake cookies and play board games. Enjoy movie nights at home and evenings out to watch festive light displays.

2. Reach out to neighbors. Build a sense of community. Join your neighbors to organize events like caroling nights, gift exchanges, and decorating contests. Take turns babysitting and driving.

3. Help those in need. Talk with your kids about volunteering and philanthropy. Sign up for a shift at your local food bank or animal shelter. Donate money and toys.

4. Cope with loss. Many families have been affected by the pandemic. Adjust your expectations if this year is different for you. Support each other and consider counseling if you’re struggling with grief, depression, or anxiety.

Make the holidays more fun and meaningful for you and your family this year. Reduce seasonal stress by simplifying your schedule and taking care of your wellbeing.

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