Each season can bring specific challenges for parents. Although we may all look forward to the lazier days of summer, for parents, the task of filling all of those “school-less” days can be seriously daunting. The back-to-school season can be exciting and bring an answer to the “what am I going to do with the kids today?” questions of summertime. However, having to get everyone up and out the door at ungodly hours, mixed with the chaos of the afterschool hamster wheel of homework, activities, dinner, and bedtime brings many parents to their knees. The reality is, no matter the time of year, being a parent can be really hard and the holiday season may be the most stressful of all for many. There is so much anticipation, and the expectations can be overwhelming and out of reach. We have endless holiday parties, gift buying, relative visiting, and, of course, our kids are once again home for days on end. With a bit of planning, it is possible for parents to withstand the pressure and have a joyous and relatively stress-free holiday season!
Take care of yourself first! As the holidays start approaching, make sure to carve out a 20-30 minute self-care routine each and every day. Getting your mind into the right space will ensure that you are able to stay calm, cool, and collected even if the kids are having a tantrum or the relatives are on your very last nerve! Think about meditation, yoga, journaling, taking a nature walk, taking a bath, or reading a great book as possible options.
Plan ahead! There are a few ways you can get all of your ducks in a row to alleviate the stress of the season:
What is your budget? Know this number and DO NOT DEVIATE! This includes costs for gifts, holiday cards, parties, and party outfits. Get your number and then go shopping. What are your must-haves? What are the wants, but if you had to leave them out, it wouldn’t be the end of the world? Kids should be aware that their list is a “wishlist” and that they will not be getting everything they want. Make sure this conversation happens early in the process!
Make your to-do list. First, do a “brain dump” by listing every single thing you can think of that has to get done throughout the season. Next, timeline the list. What has to be done now, tomorrow, next week, etc? Finally, put each “to-do” on your calendar. If there are age-appropriate tasks that your kids can handle, make sure to delegate accordingly.
RSVP with mindfulness. What are all of the potential events you could either host or attend? Think about your children and your family as a whole. Star the occasions you know you can’t miss, then be judicious about the rest. Discuss expectations ahead of time with the family, and if your kids are old enough to be part of the discussion, make sure to include them in some of the decision-making.
Stick with the routine. It can be tempting to just let it all go, but this can really backfire. Create some type of structure for the day. Think ahead about screen time, bedtime, household chores, etc. You should have a good idea of what you are comfortable with and clearly communicate this to your kids. It’s certainly fine to give more leeway and have more flexibility, but some structure around these situations can be the difference between all-out chaos and relative calm! Keep your own routine fairly close to normal as well. Getting completely out of synch by staying up extra late or forgoing your regular exercise routine and diet may throw you for a loop. Being tired and not feeling your best may contribute to having a short fuse when things become stressful.
Whatever holidays you and your family celebrate, thinking ahead and navigating the season mindfully will help to ensure this is your best holiday season ever.
Wishing you and yours a healthy and happy, and most importantly, stress-free new year!