For me, one of the most stressful parts of the holidays is the pressure I put on myself each year to give my children a season full of rich and meaningful traditions and experiences. Ice skate in Union Square, Check. Make cookies and give to neighbors, Check. Make home-made ornaments, Check! And the list, of course, could go on and on.
Over the years, I have learned that, in fact, all of my holiday traditions do not have to be relived in their entirety each year! Keeping in mind that these memories were created over a lifetime and will be recreated over my children’s lifetimes has allowed me to relax and enjoy the season without overdoing or overscheduling. I have sought balance by picking one or two special holiday activities that I try to do with the children each year. Beyond that, I think of anything else as a bonus: if they work out, wonderful! If not, maybe we will try to do that activity next year.
This year, I begin our holiday season with a newborn and I think with the newborn comes somewhat of a “free pass” to not expect myself to do everything. So far, I am finding that without the pressure, there are surprisingly sweet holiday moments popping up around many turns. Here, we offer a few tips and ideas to reduce the holiday stress meter in your life!
1. Keep it simple. It is so tempting to buy lots of gifts for our children during the holidays in an effort to give them an unforgettable day. It can be helpful to remember that the more toys children have, the less they value them. Overall, having fewer possessions helps children have longer attention spans and be more resourceful, cooperative and creative. Giving your child a few lovingly chosen, made-to-last toys is far more valuable than a mountain of toys that will quickly get lost or forgotten.
2. Manage expectations. Remember that the holiday season can be overwhelming for your child. Try to keep your child’s sleep and dietary habits as consistent as possible, and let your child know what to expect before any events that might be overstimulating or involve a lot of unfamiliar people. At this stage of parenting young children, less is more. Simple, low-key activities can be a great way to keep stress levels down and create warm, positive family memories.
3. Cultivate gratitude. Keep the focus on gratitude for the blessings in your life, and model this gratitude to your child. This article has great, concrete suggestions (including holiday-specific ideas) for fostering gratitude in young children.
If you are considering donating your time or resources to families in need this season, here are some of our favorite organizations working to support strong, healthy, safe families in the Bay Area and beyond:
Homeless Prenatal Program
Talk Line Family Support Center
Hamilton Family Shelter
Rita de Cascia Program
La Casa de las Madres
Every Mother Counts
4. Take time to care for yourself. As parents, the holidays can add another layer of stress and expectation to our already demanding lives. Be sure to factor in time for self-care. A few suggestions on how to easily incorporate self-care into your daily life:
- Have a couple spare moments? Need to detox after a trip to the mall? Try the Mindfulness app for an easy, guided daily meditation anytime, anywhere.
- If guided meditation isn’t your thing, try relaxing with a mindfulness coloring book for adults-a great way to de-stress and settle your thoughts.
- Practice deep breathing and yoga poses when you have a few moments. We love the Daily Yoga App or if your children are underfoot-include them! Books like Good Night Yoga by Mariam Gates are a great way to introduce basic poses to children.
Here's to a low-stress holiday and new beginnings in the New Year!
-Rebecca Walsh & Shannon Jerolmon