10 Tips to Help Families Manage Holiday Stress

The holidays are a hectic time for all. When you have to worry about holiday travel, finding the perfect gift, and entertaining friends and family, it's easy to forget the magic of the holiday season. What should actually be fun can quickly become stressful. And, with the kids out of school, routines are disrupted which can cause even more anxiety.

10 ways families can reduce stress this holiday season.

1.  Manage your own stress
You can set the example by managing your own stress, and keep your children from feeling it. Children and adolescents are affected by the emotional well-being of their parent or caregivers. Be self-aware and set aside personal and down time for yourself. Tame some of the craziness associated with the holidays and skip out on some activities. 

2. Get enough sleep
Sleep is essential to our health and our well-being. And that’s especially true during the holidays, when we tend to get more stressed and busier. Make sure you and your children stick to your sleep routines. Try to stay within an hour of usual times, except for special occasions (like New Year’s Eve).

3. Stick to your routine
As much as possible, keep routines the same. Kids operate at their best when routines are predictable and consistent. Same goes for meal times.

4. Manage expectations
Kids will get really excited about Christmas and the Holidays so it's important to manage their expectations. If they didn't receive that expensive present, or hard-to-find toy, or if they can't spend their vacation doing a special activity with their friends, that can lead to sadness and disappointment. Let kids know up front what they can and can’t expect (you don’t have to give away any surprises). Sit together to look at the calendar and let your kids know what you can and cannot pull off, when it comes to holiday activities. Discussing and making choices as a family in advance avoids let-downs.

5. Keep kids active
Spending all day in front of the television (or a gaming console, iPad or phone) isn’t good for anyone. Send the kids outside to play in the snow. Go to the park. Take advantage of free swim time at your local rec centre or go ice-skating. Do it as a family. Exercise is a well-known stress buster. 

6. Spend some time together
During the holidays, share activities as a family. Having a family movie night is great but try to do things that involve actual interaction. Play games, build a snowman, visit a museum, or bake cookies together. Before you know it, it will be back to school and work, so enjoy this time together.

7. Build some family Holiday traditions
Whether it’s holiday baking, making homemade gifts together, going for a weekend getaway, or attending a favourite annual show, create experiences you can repeat together every year, that are meaningful and fun.

8. Do something as a family that helps others
Donate toys for a toy drive. Go through clothes in the closet and bring gently used items to a shelter or clothing drive. Volunteer or donate your time. Look for things that your children can actively participate in, and that you can do as a family. Make sure this isn't just another family chore. Instead, think of it as a way to not only teach kindness, but to keep perspective on the holidays, and on what’s way more important than presents or parties.

9. Make a Holiday schedule
Once you've figured out the family's plan for the holidays, discuss the schedule with your kids or post in a common area. It's a good idea to let your child know in advance when specific things will happen. Simply being in the loop to prepare for what's coming is a huge stress reliever for children.

10. Let your kids vent if they need to
Let your kids know they can come to you if they need to vent about something. Praise your child when they talk about their feelings or express them in an appropriate way. It shows that feelings are normal and it’s ok to talk about them. Be present for your child and resist the urge to dismiss your child’s bad feelings. They need to feel that they are being heard. When feelings are minimised or dismissed, they will often be expressed in other unhealthy ways.

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