Managing Parenting Stress Over the Holidays

Managing Parenting Stress Over the Holidays 

Sometimes it seems like the demands and stresses of parenting just keep building up! For some parents, it just seems like there is too much to do each day—especially  during the holidays! The good news is there are ways you can handle the very real stresses of parenting through the holiday season.

Set realistic expectations and prioritize

Between tree lighting ceremonies, parades, parties, and craft fairs, there is so much to do and see with our children during the winter months—and we want them to experience it all, right?! When we set our expectations too high, it’s easy to feel let down when we can’t provide all these experiences for our children. Set yourself up for success by prioritizing the most important things you want out of the holiday season and pencil them in on your calendar. Especially if you are parenting with a partner, sit down and talk about your priorities and what you might realistically offer your children, and divide the responsibilities if possible. You will appreciate talking it through before you talk to the children.

  • With older children, you could make a list together of winter or holiday activities/experiences and choose a few to do as a family, however many you have decided is doable for your family. For example, cutting your own Christmas tree, going sledding, making holiday cards, or visiting the Holiday Market may be possible for some, but other families may get their fill of winter activity with just one thing a day or weekend. Match your child’s temperament to the activities to avoid meltdowns.
  • Think about what is most important and what you can let go of. Can the sledding trip wait until after the New Year? Would you rather spend your Saturday getting the perfect winter family photo for this year’s holiday card, or spend the day crafting homemade cards with your kiddos? The simple act of making these decisions ahead of time can help lower your stress during this very busy and over-scheduled time of the year.
  • Relax your standards. Before being a parent, perhaps, you attended every holiday party you were invited to, or you even hosted your own! Or maybe you enjoyed decorating your home from floor to ceiling in holiday decorations. Now that you’re a parent, you’ve likely had to change how you do things—and that’s OK! You don’t have to “Keep Up With Jones” to enjoy the holidays. Focus on family and enjoying their company.
  • Budget for gifts and activities. For older children, use the opportunity to teach about responsible spending and the value of money. This is also a good time to focus on the giving of gifts, rather than the receiving of gifts. How can your children contribute to making the season better for other children who may not have as many resources as they do?

Prioritize your time and health too

It’s hard to take care of yourself when caring for young children, but experienced parents will tell you it’s harder when you don’t take care of yourself. When you are tired or hungry or lonely, it’s easier to let stress get to you.

  • Eat healthy. Do you have visions of sugarplums dancing in your head? Who doesn’t this time of year? Stress can lead to unhealthy eating habits, such as overindulging. To avoid sugary temptations, have easy-to-grab snacks around like carrot sticks and fruit. If you can afford it, have takeout on occasion. Get pre-made mixes of frozen or fresh cut vegetables that you can easily add a protein to for dinner.
  • Exercise body and mind. Take ten minutes to meditate, stretch, run up and down the stairs, or read that article you’ve been waiting to look at.
  • Rest. Take the opportunity to rest when you can. Don’t always do chores when someone is with your child – take some needed down time too. Ten minutes of rest here or there can make a difference.
  • Stay connected with friends. You need adult time! Call a friend for support when the demands of time and energy seem to be getting the best of you.
  • Spend time with your spouse or partner. A quick “check in” or hug can do wonders. You may have some traditions of your own you want to start or keep alive. Don’t let yourself get lost in all the activity. Prioritizing your couple relationship benefits the whole family.
  • Say “Yes!” to help. You can relieve some stress by saying yes to offers of help. If you’re hosting a holiday dinner at your home, ask your guests to bring along their favorite dish, or stay to help clean up. There is no shame in asking for help. Be upfront about what you need from your spouse or family.

It’s all about perspective

Remember during this busy time of year to maintain perspective. The season feels extra stressful because there is a lot to do in a short amount of time and everyone’s routines are thrown out of whack. But then it’s over and life returns to normal. You can enjoy the holidays more by staying present in the moment and going with the flow. Remember, the best gift you can give your child is your attention and time.

This article is brought to you by Parenting Now Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson ( 

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