Holiday stress is real for many of us–and it can come crashing down our chimneys with reliable predictability.
According to Harvard Medical School, 62% of adults experience “very” or “somewhat” elevated holiday stress levels (source). One of the top holiday stressors? Extended family relationships. Let’s go ahead and normalize that even our closest loved ones sometimes cause us to feel overwhelmed. We’re not wrong to feel stressed about having some tension with our family members; the stress we feel is simply information about where we may need some boundaries.
After all, family dynamics can be tricky, especially once we have children. So, what healthy habits can we embrace today to manage stress this holiday season and find joy, instead?
3 Practical Tips to Reduce Holiday Stress
These healthy habits can help you reduce stress this holiday season.
1. Know that you’re a bigger influence on your children than your relatives are.
If you’re concerned about extended family being a less-than-desirable influence on your kids, find peace in the connection you’ve created.
If you’ve parented with the good of the parent-child relationship in mind, then children will naturally gravitate back to the norms of what you’ve modeled for them.
2. Have your kids’ backs.
Are your relatives giving you unsolicited and unwanted advice? Although there are many peaceful ways to handle that, one of my favorites is to politely say, “Thanks. Do you happen to know the research that supports what you’re recommending?”
If they can’t provide it, it’s usually pretty easy to move forward in the conversation.
Naturally, it helps to plan ahead and have some of these discussions proactively, rather than trying to set expectations smack-dab in the middle of a holiday party.
For example, if you know someone is going to pressure your highly sensitive and picky eater to eat something they don’t want to, you can decide ahead of time to tell them, “I don’t want to stress about what my child is going to eat at the family gathering this year, so I’m going to pack their favorite sandwich. I don’t mind if they have that while we’re having our holiday meal. That’ll be less stress for everyone.” Skip the battle and discomfort at the dinner table.
The more you’re there for your kids and your children feel you showing up for them, the less they’ll begin to equate holidays and stress, and will simply find joy in your presence—along with everyone else’s.
3. Maintain a sense of continuity.
Many kids love having a predictable daily routine and consistency, regardless of age. You can grab your kiddos’ usual bedtime story and stick it in your bag if you’re visiting relatives out of town.
Odds are good that they’d much rather hear the same story for a few nights in a row than to go without. I call it “Routine in a Box.” A few comforts from home will help your child find joy in familiarity, and help you feel merry and bright!
The same goes for touch, even for older kids. If your child normally has a lot of contact with you throughout the day, then he or she will be inclined to crave that and then some (hey, you’re their personal lovey!). Stay present. Keep touching.
Managing holiday stress is doable when you have a plan.
Some holiday commitments are certainly easier than others, but when you have a plan to support yourself–and your children–along the way, the holiday season really can be the most wonderful time of the year.
* This article was adapted from Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting and the book Peaceful Discipline. Read the full article with additional tips here, and check in with a mental health professional if you need extra support this holiday season.
Sarah R. Moore is the founder of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting and author of Peaceful Discipline: Story Teaching, Brain Science & Better Behavior. She’s a public speaker, armchair neuroscientist, and most importantly, a Mama. She’s a lifelong learner with training in child development, trauma recovery, interpersonal neurobiology, and improv comedy. As a certified Master Trainer in conscious parenting, she helps bring JOY, EASE, and CONNECTION back to families around the globe. Based in Colorado, Sarah and her family spend much of their time worldschooling. She speaks French and eats Italian food like a pro!) Her heart’s desire is to bring greater peace and healing to the world through loving and respectful parenting. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, & Twitter.