Keep Calm and Reduce Holiday Stress

The holiday season is often plagued with stress that can affect the way children behave and how adults react to it. Time is of essence to get everything accomplished on your list, and, moreover, illness and COVID-19 may be affecting your family plans.

By Anne E. Mead, Ed. D.

The holiday season is often plagued with stress that can affect the way children behave and how adults react to it. Time is of essence to get everything accomplished on your list, and, moreover, illness and COVID-19 may be affecting your family plans. We plan for the ideal holiday season -the perfect tree and all desired gifts. However, is it realistic to expect this “high performance?” Perhaps we need to make our list and think about what is really important. Is it the perfect tree and the gifts? I know my middle daughter asked her three older children to pick one need and one desired gift. This really balanced out the number of gifts everyone received, helped her children to be more appreciative, and relieved some of her family’s stress.  

Stress is with us every day but during the holidays and in times of crisis, it can be harder to manage. A small amount of stress is okay but when it becomes chronic it can affect one’s health. It is important to keep in mind that without stress, we would not be able to accomplish the many things we do. However, what can we do to prevent that “burn-out” syndrome? Here are six ways from Claire McCarthy, MD at to prevent and reduce holiday stress this season.  

  1. Manage your own stress. Not only are you setting an example, there’s just no way to stop your children from sensing your stress and being affected by it. You’re no good to anyone if you can’t function. Try to be self-aware. Set aside time for yourself. 
  2. As much as possible, keep routines the same. Kids do best when routines are predictable — and healthy. This is particularly true for sleep. As tempting as it may be to let kids stay up late and sleep late throughout the holidays, try to stay within an hour of usual times, except for special occasions.
  3. The same goes for mealtimes. Aim for three well-balanced meals a day and small healthy snacks for little ones in between meals. Try to limit the amount of sugar.
  4. 4. Manage expectations.Young children may be very excited about getting theirdesired gifts and then getting sad when they receive something slightly different. This is true for lots of kids, and it is very preventable. Use the method my daughter used mentioned above. Besides gifts, try to plan family experiences such as a trip to a museum, an outdoor hike, or a trip to an indoor activity park. Being active is a known stress buster.  
  5. Plan time together for a sharing activity such as a board game,acard game, puzzles or a family movie night.  
  6. Buildyourfamily holiday rituals, if you don’t have them already. Whether it’s holiday baking, or making homemade gifts together, create things you can do together every year that are meaningful and fun. Think about an activity that helps others. A toy drive, or collecting cans for donation, helps children develop kindness towards others. Building family rituals will stay with your family for generations. From my family to yours - Happy Holidays and stay safe and healthy!! 

Anne E. Mead, Ed. D., is the administrator for the Early Childhood Education and Extended Learning Programs of the Danbury Public Schools. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact her at 203-830-6508 or meadan@danbury.k12.