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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jacqueline Cahalan

Holiday Survival Tips for Parents

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

Holiday season is busy. There are countless gatherings, exciting winter events, and adventures to do with the children. On top of that, parents have a seemingly never-ending to-do list of planning, shopping, decorating, and so much more. While all of this festivity can be really fun and can make for great memories with friends and family, it can also be tiring, expensive, and overstimulating for both parents and kids. Here are a few tips to help you and your family get the most enjoyment out of the holidays.

1. Build traditions that make your family happy and say no to the rest.

This time of year is full of events and activities. Holiday parties, visits to Santa, and extra adventures such as the Polar Express or a Christmas show are just a few. Many parents feel pressure to try to do everything. Which is impossible. But some feel that unless they take advantage of every opportunity, they are failing to give their children a truly "magical" holiday season. While it can be really fun to take advantage of some of these opportunities, trying to do too much can be exhausting for both you and your children. Less is typically more with these types of activities. Pick a few things that your family really enjoys and make those your traditions. Say "no" to the rest and do not look back. Being selective helps you enjoy and appreciate the activities you do decide to take part in and helps them to feel more "special". And let's face it, sleigh rides with cranky children who are cold, hungry, and refuse to drink the fancy hot chocolate because it is too "brown" is often far less fun in reality than it looked like it would be on Instagram.

2. When possible, have your children stick to their normal routines.

Making sure your kids are getting enough sleep, eating more than just sugar cookies, and have opportunities for unstructured downtime will make the holidays more enjoyable for everyone. They will be more rested and have better-controlled energy levels, and will benefit from ample opportunity to unwind and process all of the holiday excitement. When your kids feel good, family adventures will be more enjoyable for everyone.

3. Eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep.

Making sure you are rested, well-fed, and physically active isn't just good for children- it is helpful for parents as well. Taking care of yourself in these ways will help you feel better. This will help give you the energy and perspective you need to deal with the inevitable parenting challenges and surprises that come with lots of gatherings, excitement, and new experiences.

4. Do NOT compare yourself or your family to what you see on social media.

No family is perfect. No holiday is perfect. No party is perfect. What you see on social media is generally a carefully curated set of someone's highlights and typically omits the "real" moments of tantrums, messes, and other mishaps. Real life is messy. Your holidays will inevitably include a certain amount of chaos, stress, and unpredictability. This is normal. Take a deep breath, try to accept it for what it is, and know that a successful holiday doesn't mean that every moment needs to be joyful.

5. Stay within your budget.

There can often be a ton of pressure to give lots of extravagant presents or to do the luxury version of every activity or to say just yes without thinking, put it on the credit card, and worry about it later. Don't. Going over-budget can add unnecessary stress and resentment towards the holidays and the people that you are trying to show care for. What is most important is that the people you love know that they are remembered and appreciated, which can be accomplished just as well with small tokens and gestures. This is true for time spent with your kids as well. Baking cookies and making homemade decorations or gifts while listening to festive music can be ways to spend quality time with your children. You will be making memories, establishing meaningful traditions, and often also spending less than if you purchased these things in stores.

6. Allow space for feelings of loss or sadness.

While the holidays are typically characterized as a time of joy and merriment, they can also be a very difficult time for anyone who has experienced a loss or hardship, or who has complicated relationships with their loved ones. It is okay, and quite normal, not to feel happy all the time. If this pertains to you, be gentle and compassionate towards yourself. If it pertains to someone else, be gentle and compassionate towards them. Don't be afraid to ask for support if you think it would be helpful, including from mental health professionals.

7. Do something for someone else.

Whether it is participating in a gift drive, helping a neighbor hang decorations, or going caroling with a group of friends, do something with the intention of helping or bringing joy to someone else. Focusing on others helps build relationships and gives the opportunity to reflect on what you are grateful for. It can also help shift the focus away from aspects of the season characterized by excess. Doing things for others is a great way to feed your soul and sets a tremendous example for your children. And that is ultimately what will make the holiday season the most "magical."

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