9 Holiday Tips to Keep the Kids Stress Free

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Tuesday, December 18, 2018
By Nicole Herdocia-Oria , RMFTI, MS

It’s the most wonderful tiiiiiime of the year!… Right?

For some of us the holidays bring on a great deal of anxiety due to a number of factors. Many stress-inducing situations arise during this season such as traveling, accommodating for family, multiple events to host or attend, shopping for gifts, family gatherings, worrying about expenses, breaking diets etc. As a result, our children can greatly be affected as well. Bed-times get pushed back, schedules and routines get disrupted and most importantly kids are sponges that can absorb their parents’ stressors.

Here are 9 tips for Christmas from your friendly neighborhood therapist for this holiday season to run smoothly and merrily for our kids and even for us. I’ll be singing this entire article by the way.

Ahem… (clears throat)

On the 1st day of Christmas my therapist said to me: Be of good cheer

Try to keep a calm and peaceful mood about you. The way parents deal with a situation can set the tone for the day, week even the season. Children absorb our moods and reflect them right back to us. If we are frustrated, kids can very well reflect that frustration in their behavior which may add to our frustration and likely put a damper on the event or day. Try to stay relaxed so the kids can reflect that relaxed mood and focus on enjoying the holidays.

On the 2nd day of Christmas my therapist said to me: It’s ok to say, “I really can’t stay, even if it’s cold outside.”

Limit your holiday events. Don’t feel obligated to attend or host everything. This is a cheerful time meaning you’re supposed to be having fun, right? Don’t say yes to everything. What’s fun about feeling tired and overwhelmed? This will definitely lead to increased levels of stress and anxiety for our children as well. It’s so important to consider which events are kid-friendly and evaluate which events you really want to attend or which ones you can opt out of or, dare I say: leave early. Don’t feel obligated to attend something just because your Tia is pressuring you to go to your nephew’s holiday recital the same day as your work party. It’s ok to choose the events more likely to be enjoyed by you and the kids.

On the 3rd day of Christmas my therapist said to me: Saying no doesn’t put you on the “naughty list.”

After declining an invitation or choosing not to host this year’s gift exchange party it’s easy to feel guilty but you’ve done nothing wrong. Remember that the holidays are a hectic time for everyone. I’m sure your friends and family will understand. Perhaps you can alter years for which events to attend or host to make it easier. It’s ok to make decisions based on yours and your family’s needs. Your child’s peace of mind and yours is priority, period.

On the 4th day of Christmas my therapist said to me: Include the kids.

During the holidays there’s a lot of extra work to be done like picking out gifts, decorating, and cooking big dinners. Ask the kids to help out. Anything can be made into a fun activity. Play holiday music and ask them to help you with the tree, set the table or help pick out a gift for dad and grandma. Being included and asked to help will make them feel important and gives them a sense of sharing and giving which is really what it’s all about.

On the 5th day of Christmas my therapist said to me: Keep your Routines!!

With all that goes on during this cheerful season, it’s easy to lose sight of our set routines. It’s important to stay constant with the important things that help keep our kids structured and rested. Depending on the ages things like naps, snacks and bedtimes need to stay as consistent as possible. When you see they’re getting cranky or antsy you know it’s time to wind down for a nap or bedtime. Don’t be shy to excuse yourself to get them in their PJ’s and put them down if need be. There may be a day or two in there that it’s just not possible to get them in bed at their normal time. It’s ok nobody is judging, and if they are who cares they’ve just made the naughty list.

On the 6th day of Christmas my therapist said to me: Make and Stay on a budget!

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in holiday shopping and gift giving but expenses can be a huge trigger for stress. Make sure to make and stick to a holiday budget whether it’s for gifts, party hosting or decorations to maintain control of the expenses and keep stress at bay. Plus, I doubt anyone’s dreaming of a broke Christmas.

On the 7th day of Christmas my therapist said to me: Highlight the reason for the season.

No matter what your religion or beliefs, the holidays are about giving and helping others. It’s a great way to teach our children to be grateful and appreciate what they have. Involve the kids in choosing toys to donate to a toy drive or get involved in a community project to raise funds for the needy. It really helps that they get this perspective from a young age so they can “always stay humble and kind”.

On the 8th day of Christmas my therapist said to me: Allow yourself to indulge and enjoy.

Many of us struggle to not break the diet on a regular basis but during the holidays it becomes so much more difficult being constantly surrounded with all kinds of holiday treats. Allow yourself this time of year to cheat every once in a while. Enjoy yourself, whether its chestnuts roasting on an open fire, or coquito (yum) eat the chocolate babka (my favorite). Allow yourself to indulge. So long as you feel there is control. Try to stay active to compensate for the goodies so you don’t feel guilty. Cheesy as it sounds, (oooh cheese) the holidays are meant for enjoying so go ahead… enjoy! There’s plenty of time for New Year’s resolutions anyway.

On the 9th day of Christmas my therapist said to me: Embrace traditions.

If you don’t already have family traditions, start one. Whether it’s decorating a ginger bread house that no one wants to eat afterwards, doing Holiday Songs Karaoke, decorating the tree or playing charades together, the key is: TOGETHER. There are so many activities we can make meaningful and memorable that become family rituals to be passed down from generation to generation that just help to make the season bright. Have the Fam Jams. Making time for that “quality time” is what the holidays are meant for: Loving on your friends and family. Fa la la la la, la la la Love.

My fondest memories of Christmas was my mom decorating, not just the tree but the ENTIRE house while Christmas music playing in the background and the house smelling of pine and cinnamon. That’s the essence of Christmas for me. Not the gifts. I have no idea what I got for Christmas when I was 4, 7, 9, 12 or any other year while I was growing up. I remember ripping open paper surrounded by my parents, siblings and lots of laughter but not what was inside the boxes I was opening. It’s just not the memory that stands out. It’s hard to keep that in mind today with all the huff about what’s the newest toy or gadget. But what’s really important is what stays with us. I hope my kids don’t remember what’s inside the boxes either.

May your days be Merry and Bright this holiday season!


Which tip will you implement today to reduce the family holiday stress? What tip do you have that will help others reduce their stress this holiday season?