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3 - 5 min read

3 Steps For Managing Parenting Stress This Holiday Season

Parenting during the holidays feels tough because it is tough. Here are 3 tips to get you through with less stress and more joy.

Parenting during the holidays feels tough because it is tough. 

Somehow multiple family visits are compressed into one or two days. There is literally only so much physical time to do all of the things. 

Traveling by car? Traveling by plane? I mean has anyone tried to navigate a long car ride with toddlers? Or the airport? DURING THE HOLIDAYS?! It is the definition of insanity. 

Yes, let me pack up my overly tired, overstimulated kiddos and cart them here and there so we “get everyone in.” Sounds like a recipe for disaster. 

I am bound to lose it. They are bound to cry. Holiday cheer anyone?

And the stress. 

The stress of hosting. 

The stress of doing and having enough. 

Enough presents under the tree. 

Enough food. 

Enough patience. 

Well, I say enough is enough. 

Here’s what you need to know:

You’re not missing anything. 

You are not failing. 

You are not alone. 

We see you. 

We see you jumping hurdles to give everyone what you think they deserve. 

We see you exhausted and struggling. 

Yea, you, you are creating more magic than that stuff that makes Rudolph fly. 

And here’s what we say: 

You have permission to set boundaries. 

You have permission to set the pace for your family. 

You have permission to say No. 

Creating Less Stress This Holiday 

In lieu of creating less stress this holiday season, we are sending out our holiday invitations … an invitation to find what works for you and your family, knowing that you are enough, that there is no one right way or have to’s or benchmarks to meet. You are the barometer, and that voice that lives inside of you that says “this is too much” or “this brings me joy” is worth dialing in to. Let’s turn up the volume on that tune and let it jingle all the way through the season.

1. Figure out how you want your holidays to feel. Say yes to those things that feel like a yes, and say no to everything else that lives outside of that. This is an opportunity to create new holiday rituals that respect your family’s needs and desires.

2. Delegate. You don’t have to do it all. Even Santa has a zillion helpers. 

3. Set boundaries on what you are willing to do. Empathetic limits with family are helpful, especially when navigating different perspectives and desires. I like the formula:

Share your feelings + Set a boundary + Pause for a response + Validate their experience while holding firm to your boundary. 

These may look like: 

  • Boundaries around your time: “We are unable to make it for Christmas Eve because we have a family ritual where we bake cookies, put out reindeer food, snuggle up to read The Night Before Christmas, and then turn lights off early in excitement for the next day. The kids love it and it feels special to my partner and me to keep this tradition going. What would be a good day for us to celebrate with you? We have the 26th, 27th, or 28th available.”
  • Boundaries around travel: “We want to see everyone this year. At the same time, I am feeling overwhelmed with trying to make the puzzle pieces fit. It is a lot for the kids, and for me, to see everyone in one day. What I would like to do is to space out our holiday into several days so that we can spend quality time together without rushing to the next place. Enjoying each other’s company feels important. Are you willing to help me with this?”
  • Boundaries around helping: “I hear you want me to bring the mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, and two pies. I feel excited to help. I am willing to bring the sides or the dessert. Which do you prefer?”
  • Boundaries around gifts: “I know that you love doing a big holiday for the kids. It is so fun to buy gifts and watch the excitement of opening them. At the same time, we are working on minimizing and ask that you choose two gifts or experience gifts this year.” 
  • Boundaries around parenting practices: “I hear you when you say that you disagree with some of our parenting choices. We have reasons for doing things the way that we do. I guess what I want to know is if you are curious about that. If so, I could show you some information and we can learn together. Or, if you are watching me and thinking I am doing it wrong, I ask that you defer to me for discipline so that I can keep things consistent for my kids. I appreciate your help in this.” 

Remember, you don’t need your parents’ (or anyone else’s) approval to parent the way you want. You just need their cooperation and respect. And sometimes you won’t even get that. Hold true to what feels right to you, and set empathetic limits where needed. There is nothing wrong or bad about noticing and advocating for your family’s needs and desires. 

Wherever you find yourself this holiday season, remember that gentle parenting starts with being gentle with yourself.  

We don’t have to get caught up in the pressure to “be on” these next few months. Keep doing what you always do … being the parent and human you are (imperfections and rockstar parts, too). Your love, presence, and connection is the gift that keeps giving year-round, and that is enough. 

You are enough.

Ashley Patek is the Content Director for Generation Mindful. Ashley is an occupational therapist, certified lifestyle/parenting coach, and mama to four children; two boys and two daughters born to Heaven. She believes that parenting starts with us as parents and focuses on the whole-parent, whole-child, and whole-family dynamic.