Easing holiday stress

by Brittany Gilbert

The holidays just naturally carry a certain amount of stress with them, and if you have little ones, the irregular schedule the holidays can bring can significantly elevate that stress. But it’s important to remember that as parents, we do, in fact, still have some control during the holidays! Focusing on a few important things can help ease the holiday stress.

Rest or nap time

If you have little ones like I do, this is absolutely necessary. Trying to function while being overtired and stretched is like trying to eat while on a rollercoaster, it doesn’t work and it’s messy. My main source of frustration with my kids during the holidays is because I am requiring them to function amid chaos while they are sleepy and overstimulated and definitely over their limit of sugar.

How we remedy this is that we have a Pack ‘n Play in our car wherever we visit just in case we need to set it up. If you’re hosting family at your house, this is a little easier, but is still something you may find difficult to do with a house full of people. My husband and I take turns being absent from the party to settle our kids down for a nap. Usually it just takes a book or two and a sound machine to help them fall asleep. However, if your children are older and maybe not taking naps every day, it’s still a good idea to include a rest time in the day. You may be surprised to find that even older kids will sleep. Children need anywhere from 10-13 hours of sleep, yet most don’t get this amount during the night, especially when they aren’t at home. Naps are very important to help them catch up.

Keep a routine

Whether you have a strict schedule or a more relaxed set of routines that you do each day, your child needs this to continue even when on vacation or visiting family for holidays. Routines help children (and let’s face it, adults, too) maintain balance and security.

While it’s common for these events to be out of the ordinary, it doesn’t mean we have to feel like that as well. When we visit family for the holidays and lunch is scheduled for 2, it doesn’t mean that we expect our family to cater to our schedule of eating at noon, but it means that we have food ready for our kids to eat at their normal time.

When our kids are older, they will be better able to adjust their normal routine by eating a snack and eating family lunch later, but at this stage it would be a recipe for a major meltdown due to being overtired and hungry.

Practice patience

Everyone needs extra grace during the holidays, and kids are no exception. Tensions are high and children feed off of stress without really knowing how to react. As parents, we set the bar for how to handle these situations. I don’t normally have a problem with patience, however, when my house is full of family and friends and my kids suddenly forget how to obey or follow directions, my patience runs thin.

In these moments, it’s important for me to remember that I set the thermostat in my house when it comes to patience, and I am responsible for how I react to my children in these moments. What helps me in these situations is to first anticipate that there will be moments that require a lot of patience. When I know what triggers stress, I can better react in the moment. It’s then easier for me to take a step back and breathe before I react. I know that my children are watching, and these moments also teach us all how to respond in the future. 

Focus on others

If your children see you having a servant attitude toward others, it will help them to see the importance of serving. Christmas is such an important time to teach our kids the value of helping others. It’s natural for children to walk into a store and want to get a present for themselves, but what if we taught them about how good it feels to get a present for someone else? Teaching your children the value of taking care of others can help cut down on stressful moments when they might only be interested in what they can get out of Christmas.


Brittany Gilbert is a former FACS teacher at Maumelle High School. She and her husband, Levi, have two sons and live in Conway. Brittany can be reached at [email protected].