How Your Kids Can Help You Handle Holiday Stress

My wife and I were standing outside of a shopping center the week before Thanksgiving when we began to hear the “sounds of Christmas.”  We looked at each other with amazement as the holidays began to permeate the air of the mall parking lot. Each year it appears that the winter holidays arrive earlier than the year before, making it more difficult for many to avoid holiday stressors.

It is not unusual for people to have a difficult time handling the season-driven holiday cheer and find that they are actually experiencing the “holiday blues.” Our commercial motivation to extend the preparation and celebration of the holidays can make one’s stress that much more intense.  Rather than getting immersed in the excitement of the holiday season, many people view the holidays as a stressful reflection of their painful memories. Some people have lost loved ones, forfeited jobs, ended relationships, and find themselves far away from family. The expectations of gaiety and joyfulness illuminate what is missing for them.

Parents also feel stressed regarding managing the practical aspects of the holiday such as shopping, preparing for company, wrapping gifts, decorating the house, and getting out holiday cards.  Parents become stressed because they are unable to meet their expectations of a joyful holiday season. They discount their feelings as they try to uphold the sacredness of their family traditions.

Parents need to remember that holiday traditions are a family experience.  This means that children can play a role in supporting parents in the process of preparing and celebrating the holiday season. Since children are typically excited and cheerful during the holidays, their assistance and support can be invaluable in making the holiday experience a brighter one for the entire family.

Many parents view their children as an obstacle rather than an asset during the holidays.  They perceive their children as being the recipients of the fruits of the holidays, including food, presents, and family connections.  In order to reduce the stress of the holidays, parents need to encourage their children to assist in all aspects of holiday planning.

There are some ways that you can help your children feel apart of the holiday planning and minimize the stress of the season:

  • Encourage your children to volunteer at food shelters and give to donation drives.
  • Don’t be afraid to let your children know that holidays can be a stressful time for you and indicate some of the reasons why.  They will understand.
  • Teach your children that the spirit of the holidays is about giving to others who are less fortunate than you.
  • Don’t worry about whether your children are getting enough gifts.
  • Most kids don’t care as much about the gifts they receive as parents think they do.  Have your kids make a wish list.
  • Be honest with them about what you can afford.  They will understand.
  • Your honesty is worth far more to them than the gifts.
  • Ask your children to help out with shopping.
  • Request that your children prepare the house for the holidays by putting out decorations and religious symbols.
  • Encourage your children to help you address holiday cards.
  • Make your children apart of the gift wrapping process.
  • Involve your children in cleaning the house.
  • Avoid the aspects of the holiday season which intensify stress.
  • Moderate the endless stream of holiday music.
  • Avoid excessive shopping.
  • Make plans for a simpler, more comfortable celebration.
  • The holidays should be about feeling connected to other people and to the religious traditions reflecting one’s concept of God.
  • It is important to involve your children in making the holidays a simple but sacred experience with family and friends.