Holiday seasons bring holiday stress in many forms. Adults and kids alike can find their capacity to find magic in the holidays sucked dry by the mass of expectations.Kids love holidays, but they can be quickly overwhelmed and stressed even if they are not aware of it. You as the parent could be feeling the stress more than comfort and joy as well.
There are events, extra sugar and treats, crowds, bad weather, upended schedules, and new environments. Any combination of the above could send a person into a tailspin of anxiety and stress. So how do you have an enjoyable holiday without too many meltdowns of the adult or child variety?
5 Ways to Manage Holiday Stress
Here are five tips to implement to manage holiday stress for adults and children.
1. Plan rest times
While you are looking at the calendar packed with things to do and places to be, it might be helpful to also plan the downtimes. It will be good to know you can have a slower morning after a late-night office party.
Set aside one weekend that is just for being at home with the family. Consider how long it takes to do different chores and space them out over the week. You do not have to complete everything in one fell swoop.
Planning rest is especially important for children. The excitement of holiday gatherings and extra sugar will completely throw off their bodies’ normal rhythms. Cranky kids are a quick path to cranky parents.
Pay attention to when they seem extra clingy and take some time to cuddle with them. Space out activities with days home. Let them wear comfortable clothes
whenever possible. Carving out the space for rest will let the whole family have more energy and fun together.
Try to get the family more involved in helping with various aspects of holiday prep to have a rest yourself. You could have the store wrap gifts to free up time for rest. If hiring out elements of your holiday work is an option for you, then do so.
Parents often place a burden on themselves by making the holidays “magical” for their children. Remember there is nothing magical about mom yelling at the kids if their cookies are not perfect or the kids having a meltdown because they had to nap in the car three days in a row. Setting aside time for naps, relaxation techniques, or other forms of rest will keep the busyness from taking over all hours of the day or night.
2. Make a “Don’t List”
Making a to-do list can help manage stress. It takes a big, overwhelming situation and breaks it down into smaller manageable tasks. You might have a holiday to-do list that feels like it won’t be done until spring. That’s a lot of pressure.
Making a do-not-do list could also help relieve some of the expectations you might be placing on yourself.
- Do not have a perfectly cleaned home.
- Do not go places that make you uncomfortable.
- Do not do crafts/baking/projects that frustrate you.
- Do not wrap gifts, put them in bags.
- Do not volunteer as a backstage parent at the holiday program.
Social media is filled with ideas and inspiration for wonderful holiday activities and recipes. However, if the thought of doing those things fills you with dread, then do not do them. Your kids will have a happier holiday if you are not trying to force another person’s ideas onto them. You get to decide the activities that you want to have as traditions. The things found on social media are suggestions, not requirements.
3. Let go of traditionTraditions are beautiful ways to honor the past, but if a tradition causes you pain and frustration is it really honoring? Maybe your mom always made gingerbread houses from scratch, but you cannot figure out how to fit that in between dance recitals and work functions. It’s okay to let it go. You might be letting go of something for just one year, or maybe forever. If maintaining a tradition has become a source of stress for you, it’s okay to let it go.
If you have young children, it is an amazing time to evaluate and choose the traditions that you want to continue with your kids. Take some time to reflect on the things that are meaningful to you and decide how you can continue a tradition.
When the kids are older you can have conversations with them about the traditions that have meaning to them. Maybe they don’t care if you go on a Christmas lights drive but would love to spend the time building a snowman. Maybe you or they want to start something new or revisit an older tradition. Having a conversation about family traditions can open doors to closer relationships.
Tradition is not law, and those who make it such are fighting the spirit of love and joy that should be the experience of the season.
4. Do What You Love
So much of the holiday season becomes about meeting external expectations. But if you plan your rest, know things that you are not going to do, and have figured out the traditions you want, then you open up the holiday season to participating in what you love.Would you rather see the newest movie release or go to the Nutcracker? Choose what sounds fun to you and your family. Are homemade cookies your absolute favorite? Bake them. Don’t care if cookies ever cross the threshold of your house, don’t bake.
Would you like to decorate without kids around? Have them babysat. Do you just want to listen to Bing Crosby belting out “White Christmas”? Blast those speakers while you wash dishes.
Knowing what you love about the holidays will keep you from trying to recreate someone else’s holiday.
5. Communicate with Your Family
Stress will come out sideways if you do not handle it ahead of time. The kids screaming at each other or you burying your head in a pillow to muffle your own scream are signs that all of you are stressed.
As you make plans for this holiday season, talk with your family. Give children clear expectations ahead of schedule changes and events. Talk to your spouse about the things that are overwhelming to you. Listen when children are having meltdowns over minutia.
Trying to suppress your feelings will cause greater stress than any of the situations or activities could cause. Be honest about what you do want as well as what you do not want throughout the holiday season. How much of your stress is because you have taken on too much and are secretly mad at everyone for not noticing? Be clear in your expectations of yourself and your family to prevent resentment from creeping into your holiday season.
Nobody wants to have a stressful holiday season. Some stress may be unavoidable, but you can set yourself and your children up for success by having a plan that allows for rest, honesty, and love.
“Gold Christmas Ornament”, Courtesy of Chad Madden, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; Notebooks”, Courtesy of Annie Spratt, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Decorating the Tree”, Courtesy of Jonathan Borba, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Gingerbread Cookies”, Courtesy of Casey Chae, Unsplash.com, CC0 License