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Oregon Family Magazine

Reducing Holiday Stress

11/30/2021 ● By Pilar Bradshaw, M.D., F.A.A.P.
The holiday season is a time of much excitement and joy, but let’s face it — it can also be a stressful time. Despite our best intentions, it’s common for families to get overwhelmed trying to do so much in such a short amount of time. Add in the loss of routine, the hassles of travel, altered sleep patterns, big emotions, and gatherings (especially in the time of COVID), and the holidays can present extra challenges for kids and parents.

Try these tips to help add calm to the seasonal chaos:

  • Plan ahead. Let your child know in advance when specific things will happen. Having a plan and keeping kids in the loop is a huge stress reliever for them.
  • Prepare for traveling: Plan frequent breaks during long car trips and be sure to bring plenty of toys or activities and healthy snacks for the ride.  
  • Stick to routines as much as possible. Regularity is comforting to children, so when it comes to things like naps, baths and bedtime, try to keep your normal schedule, especially when traveling.
  • Pare down your plans: Avoid squeezing too many activities into one day and remember it’s OK to say no to some holiday events rather than pushing yourself and your child past your limits.
  • Create downtime. Find opportunities to practice calming techniques with your kids such as listening to music or reading a book. Taking even a 15-30 minute break can give parents a breather and help kids recharge, decreasing the likelihood of a meltdown.
  • Give grief a voice. If there has been a divorce, a loss of a loved one, or other big change to the holidays, let your kids express their feelings in art or words. Avoid pressuring kids to feel joyful and instead provide a space where you can encourage them to share their true feelings with you.
  • Give back. The holidays are a great time to instill in kids the importance of helping others. As a family, find ways to donate toys or other needed items, or volunteer your time to support a nonprofit in the community.

Remember, years from now our children won’t recall specific holiday events as much as they will remember how they felt during those times. Focus on meaningful moments instead of trying to pull off a holiday fit for a Norman Rockwell painting — even if that means everything on your to-do list doesn’t get done. Time spent together is what matters most in the long run.