2021 has provided us with nothing but struggles, and I know it has been a very challenging year for all of us. But before this year ends, we must enter the holiday season. I started my holiday season this week by watching one of my favorite movies, “Home Alone”. While watching that family prepare for their Paris trip, I thought about how quickly the holidays can cause chaos in the home. So, it would be appropriate for this time of year to discuss some tips and strategies on how to manage holiday stress as a parent.
People experience a variety of emotions during the holidays, which can make managing this time of year difficult. The holidays can be especially challenging if you are a parent. Things may look very different for different families due to a variety of factors, such as travel restrictions, inclement weather, financial changes, and changes in family structures. You might notice your child is excited about the holidays, but can also be feeling overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle this time of year. Juggling and navigating extended family expectations, let alone those of your children can prove challenging as to how to manage holiday stress as a parent. Transitions during the holiday season can be difficult to handle, resulting in heightened emotions in the household.
Even so, there are a few things you can do this holiday season to prove that JOY can win.
- It’s important to plan activities for your family over the holidays so that you can take the focus off of gift-giving and have quality time together. Consider visiting your neighbors’ holiday light displays, hosting a games night, or baking something delicious to bring joy back into the home.
- Limit screen time. It is important for kids to maintain somewhat of a routine, which means that they are still expected to limit their time on their devices. It is important to encourage children to have play dates or take part in hands-on activities. Too much screen time will make it extremely difficult for them to return to their normal routine.
- The transition from one event to another can be hard for children. Giving them an idea of what to expect over the holidays is important. Structure still matters over the holidays, so make sure your children know where they have to go. Recognize their efforts as they move from one transition to another.
- It’s a great opportunity to check in with your children over the holidays, and to see how they’re doing. Kids can have a difficult time during the holidays, so it is important for them to know you are present and aware of what is going on.
- Set age-appropriate expectations and communicate them. Gatherings and events may not be age-appropriate for your child, so make sure you prepare accordingly. In the event that there are more adults than children at the gathering, make sure that you have hand-on activities, toys, and snacks to keep them entertained. If you have younger kids with you at an event, keep in mind when it is the best time to leave so you can start the process of transitioning your child home. Give your child a time frame so they can expect when they need to start wrapping up what they are doing, or to mentally prepare for going home (especially if they are having too much fun).
- We all want to feel connected during the holidays. Be sure to arrange times to reach out to family members who may be near and far away. Also reach out to family and friends who may be alone this Christmas.
- A great way for your family to stay connected is to give back to your community through volunteer opportunities. Explore what volunteer opportunities are available in your community, and have your children choose what they would like to do to serve their community. Bringing joy to others is a great feeling.
- Another great way to maintain connection and create memories is through family traditions. Whether you have traditions in your family that have been passed down from generation to generation, do not be afraid to create new traditions with your kids too. Be consistent from year to year. Kids generally look forward to traditions as it creates structure, and are unique to your family. Traditions are very special, and a great way for kids to even pass down these traditions to their future families.
The holidays can be even more difficult for children who are transitioning back and forth between parental homes. Children require support from both parents when they are going to and returning home from visiting each parent.
Here are a few tips to support your children during this time:
- Make plans ahead of time so you can organize your schedule, but also to prepare kids for their visit.
- Stay positive together. Show your children that both parents can be allies, so that children do not experience difficult emotions towards either parent. Encourage your child to enjoy their time with the other parent.
- Have plans for your child(ren)’s visit. By having plans, it communicates to your child that you care, and are excited to spend time with them.
- Create new traditions or maintain old traditions at both homes, as the continuity for your child is helpful through the transition.
- Be flexible and adaptable. Put your differences aside, and try to work together to ensure that your children have the best holiday break possible.
- Help your children shop for the other parent to help children feel that everyone is accounted for and thought of for Christmas.
Lastly, I encourage you to find some time over the holidays to engage in your own self-care. Because how you manage holiday stress as a parent is a reflection of how well you are taking care of yourself. It is important to schedule some time for yourself to feel rejuvenated, refreshed, and connected. Your ability to manage the stress of the holidays with your children successfully requires putting in the time for yourself. Not sure where to start? Head over to this blog which has a few great tips on how to take care of YOU this holiday season.