Skip to main content
family at christmas tree

Holiday Season Pointers for Parents!
Michael Reisman, M.Ed.

It’s that time of year again! The time where we get ready for annual holiday traditions. For some it’s travel. For some it’s prepping the home and hosting family and friends. For some it also means cooking and baking. And for many children, it’s time for wish lists, expectations, and behavioral bargaining. Think about the Elf on the Shelf’s judgmental eye, or more obvious, Santa’s naughty/nice list. As joyous and amazing as it all can and should be, it also can be quite stressful, especially for children. With the added anxiety the holiday season can cause for adults, it’s easy to project our anxiety onto children, compounding their regular day to day issues and challenges.

Plenty of published articles make recommendations for controlling stress and anxiety during the holidays. Here’s a list of Holiday Parent Pointers, based in part on the links below and on my own experience in early childhood education and as a parent. I highly recommend reading the links. One even mentioned the Y (Empowering Parents).

No Quid Pro Quo: Children learn from examples set by peers and adults, specifically parents and teachers. Considering how brains and behaviors work, either your child is too young to internalize how better behavior affects holiday outcomes, or your child is old enough that his or her “mode of being” has already been set. It is not too late for behavior modification, but it takes a lot longer and a lot more consistency than the holiday wish list to accomplish change. Set a reasonable financial and emotional budget for your family. Try projects such as volunteering and sharing responsibilities on the holiday to-do lists.

Take care of thyself: Don’t add unnecessary pressure on yourself to meet excessive expectations to come through for others during the holidays. Keep your anxiety and stress lower through open-ended planning and building “me time” into the calendar to help manage expectations for yourself and others.

Set aside quality time: Children can be wildcards and throw a wrench in the sprocket of our grand plans. Try to stick to your regular family routines as much as possible, including meal times, nap times and bedtimes. When planning events and obligations, keep in mind that your children want your attention even MORE this time of year, and may go to great lengths to get it. To riff on a common saying, an ounce of proaction saves a pound of reaction. It may save tears and tempers to make sure your children know you put them first.

Screen-time together: As part of quality time, employ your values for screen time into your family down time.  I have found that my child places a higher value on “family time” when watching movies or playing video games together. It can be quite relaxing and snugly to watch holiday programs together as a break from planning, cleaning, cooking, and working.

Stay active AND creative: The benefits of being active with your children are multifold. Children have lots of physical and creative energy.  If you’ve got snow outside, get out in it with the kids and let them guide your play.  If the weather is prohibitive, get creative inside.  Board games stimulate the mind, as do open-ended art projects. Remember, you’ve got the Y!  Call your local YMCA of Bucks and Hunterdon Counties branch for open gym and swim times.  Don’t be afraid to grant yourself a workout during Stay & Play hours either.  If you don’t have a family membership to the Y yet, call your local branch now or visit our membership webpage to sign up!

Above all, be sure to check your own anxiety and expectations.  You are a mom, dad, sister, brother, son, daughter, cousin, uncle, aunt, niece, or nephew.  The pressure is on, so give yourself physical and emotional breaks. Remember, there’s always next year.

Please see the links below for more sound advice from experts on preserving your sanity during the holiday season, and have a happy, healthy New Year!

About the Author: 

michael rMichael Reisman is Director of Communications for YMCA of Bucks and Hunterdon Counties. Michael earned a BA in Journalism from Rutgers University in 1997 and Masters Degree in Education from the University of Washington in 2011. Michael has served the YMCA community since 2017.




Dubin, Alesandra, 40 Easy Tips for a Stress Free Christmas, Woman’s Day, Sept. 20, 2021

McCarthy, MD, Claire, 7 Ways to Prevent Holiday Stress - For Your Children, Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, Nov. 28, 2017

Pincus, MS LMHC, Debbie, Holiday Stress: How to Keep Calm and Avoid Fighting with Your Kids, Empowering Parents, (no published date)

Reece, Tamekia, 7 Ways to Reduce Your Child’s Holiday Stress, Parents, Dec. 21, 2016

Category: blog