How to Handle Holiday Stress

The Montclair Community Pre-K offers some advice for you and your family during these hectic holiday times.


The following list of tips for handling holiday stress was submitted by the Montclair Community Pre-K.

As we prepare for the Holiday season, here is some information concerning holidays and celebrations, and some tips for handling the upcoming weeks for yourself, your children and your entire family.       

  • What do children really want at this busy time of year? Is it really gifts, presents and candy? No, it is something deeper and more meaningful; something each parent is able to afford: Relaxed and loving Attention.         
  • In these busy times, it is easy to forget that the simplest offering is often the most meaningful. Undivided attention is often the best gift to children and adults alike. Mr. Fred Rogers reminded us that one of the universal longings we have is to be able to give something acceptable to one another. The emotional importance of the holidays can be seen as the giving and receiving of clues about how acceptable we each are. Undivided attention communicates love, respect and most of all, acceptance.
  • What will your children remember years from now about the upcoming holidays and celebrations? Most likely it will be about the time spent together—making special cookies or ornaments, extra time for stories, taking walks in the snow or jumping in piles of leaves. Often we need to plan out time to reduce stress levels and allow for the time and space for these simplest moments to occur. 

Here are some tips for making your holidays more memorable and less stressful:

  1. Let offerings and gifts be shared based upon good will. Avoid talking about gifts as rewards for specific behaviors.
  2. Protect children from holiday advertising, which starts too early, can unfairly raise expectations and interferes with sensing what is really needed and desired.
  3. Encourage questions about family customs and beliefs.
  4. Explain the spiritual, religious and cultural significance for the holidays. Design family rituals that are repeated at each holiday… a special story, bread or decoration.
  5. Have children help make decorations for the table when a meal is part of the celebration.
  6. Make sure that your children understand the number and variety of celebrations and holidays that are celebrated around the world. Invite friends who have different traditions to share them with your family.
  7. Slow down and connect with your family every day.
  8. Simplify household and meal routines just prior to a holiday.
  9. Maintain children’s routines as much as possible.
  10. Spread celebrations over several days so that young children do not become overwhelmed with “too much” celebrating.
  11. Allow enough time for special activities to be enjoyed. Limit the number so that your family is not rushing from one special event to another.
  12. If gift giving is part of your tradition, help children set realistic expectations. The time to deal with expectations is before the holiday. If you know that your child is asking for something unrealistic, firmly help them make other choices.
  13. If company is expected, prepare your children. Explain when visitor’s routines may be different. “Nana takes an afternoon nap in her rocker. Uncle Bill likes to watch football on TV.”
  14. Run interference with visitors who may not be familiar with your routines or who may move in too close too quickly for a young child. Help visitors understands the developmental needs of your child. “Nine month olds just like to be close to Mom or Dad.”
  15. If disappointment occurs, help children face and deal with it. Often a simple acknowledgement that you can see their disappointment is enough to help them move along.
  16. Use distraction, quiet times and quiet spaces to help kids settle if they begin to become overwhelmed. Taking a walk is always a great way to re-direct energy.
  17. As adults, we can lower our standards of what we expect from our families, our children and ourselves at holiday times.
  18. Carefully make and stick to a budget.
  19. Be ready for “meltdowns” to occur when children are over-stimulated or over-tired.
  20. Be glad for what does go well and continue to focus on your blessings.
alicia November 21, 2012 at 01:32 PM
I am overjoyed to see such wisdom offered here. I actually wished for much of these things (relaxed time and loving attention.) As a child as I watched my over worked, financially pressed mother used her short temper to control us four kids as she trudged through the hundreds of little tasks necessary to 'get through' the holidays. I did not grow up looking forward to the holidays but began dreading them more and more the older I got. It truly means the world to me to be the mom I wish I'd had and these thoughts and ideas are so helpful and encouraging. I know I can give my child a more ideal and happy outlook for the holidays. Thank you so much!


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