Stress-free Holidays by Ellen Begley, M.Ed., RN, NCC, LPC

Stress and anxiety is contagious, and the holidays can make parents and children more like Scrooge than that lovely Norman Rockwell painting.

Here are some things that can make the holidays calmer.

  • Start with planning ahead as a family. Have a family meeting, encouraging each member to share thoughts, expectations, and hopes for the holiday. Then, make plans integrating those priorities. Mark the “have to” things on the calendar first. Add the “want to” things only as they promise to add value to your holiday experience.


  • Maintain regular family routines during the holidays. Well-balanced meals, exercise, and regular bedtime can ease stress levels and prevent illness. Schedule some family “time out” to rest and relax. Shopping trips and visits with relatives go much more smoothly when each family member is rested and healthy.


  • Make use of your support system of friends to trade off childcare during out-of-school days. Visit a museum or attend a story time at the local library as a child-friendly activity. Older children and teenagers might enjoy volunteering with a charitable organization or shelter, using their time and energy to contribute to the holiday spirit.


  • Schedule some activities that feed your own spirit. Give priority to those things that leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, rather than exhausted and frazzled. Worship services, musical performances and plays might be enjoyable options.


  • Create and sustain family traditions. Over the years, these provide great security and comfort amid inevitable disruptions. Baking cookies for a neighbor or friend, visiting a nursing home, helping in a soup kitchen or shelter, or donating cans to a food bank can all become family traditions that create lasting childhood memories.


  • Recognize that holidays may generate memories that evoke feelings of grief. Allow yourself and your children time to reminisce, being careful not to get stuck in the past. Watch for signs of withdrawal and depression with children and adults, and seek professional help when needed.


  • Laughter is great for stress. Gather the family for a funny movie to help everyone relax.

Take a deep breath, and make a family pledge to share this holiday season as a time of joy.