Tips to Reduce the Stress of Parenting When the Celebrations Start

The holidays are here and as wonderful as a happy holiday would be, the reality is not always that joyful. Your little one asks you to play every thirty minutes, but you keep saying no because the turkey still isn’t done and you’re running late to grandma’s. Finally, she grabs a toy from her sister, yanks the dog’s tail, and spirals into a tantrum when she sees you coming for her in anger.

The truth is she’d rather you come in anger, than not come at all.

The holidays can bring up lots of feelings for everyone. As parents, we may be holding on to more stress, sadness, and anxiety. And our children may have more frequent meltdowns.

We’re hoping that our children will be at their very best in front of extended family and friends. And if they’re not, we feel judged and are quick to snap at our kiddos.

Little ones can be excited, over-stimulated, and under-slept—ripe for multiple meltdowns. Conflict among family members and the ache of missing people we love can be exacerbated at this time of year. All of this mixed with the fact that parents tend to be busier and have less attention for their kids in the rush to shop, prepare a holiday meal, or get to the next party on time.

But the holidays don’t have to be a series of endless meltdowns. Here are some things to try to make the season a little lighter.


Before friends or relatives come over for dinner, or before you go to the next holiday party, make sure you do some Special Time with your little one. With young children, it can take just a few minutes to reconnect after a busy morning or afternoon.

Set aside ten to thirty minutes to play whatever they want to play. Set a timer and play with abandon. Put your phone aside, follow their rules, snuggle up close if they want to watch a video, notice where the laughter peaks through and be silly when you can.

During Special Time you’ll boost your child’s confidence and sense of connection and save yourself from an uncooperative kiddo as the day goes on.



When kids are playing in the other room, things can easily go south. One of the best ways to end a conflict among siblings, cousins, or friends, is to let them team up against you.

Hide and Seek is an all time favorite and a great one for older kids to play with younger ones. One mom with young children recently told me:

My kids adore hide and seek, however, it needs to be really obvious where I’m hiding. It’s hard not to laugh a lot when standing in the bathtub and someone comes to look for me and doesn’t find me. Then the toddler wanders in and sees me in the tub and can’t stop grinning because he can’t understand why mommy is giggling in the tub. Just the announcement of ‘Here I come…’ incites a ridiculous amount of laughter.

 And, of course, the “I hope nobody” game is usually a big hit! This is how one mom does it:

Sometimes I’ll use a scarf or a long sock and stick it in the waistband of the back of my pants and announce: ‘Please don’t touch my tail. I love my tail.’ Inevitably, someone will come grab my tail and run off with it. Then I look shocked and say, ‘Who would do such a thing? Who would take my tail? Did you take my tail?’ Then I chase them until I find a new tail substitute. I stuff the new tail in my pants and say, “Oh no, I lost my tail, hopefully this will do for a while! I hope no one comes along and takes this one too! I really like this new one!”


Family time, rituals, presents, and treats can be a way to fill our inner cups. But the holidays are ripe with things that can just as easily empty them—disruption of routines, too much togetherness, dysfunctional family dynamics, obligatory parties, competitiveness, the wrong presents and too many treats.

Don’t get caught up in ‘shoulds’, says Larry Cohen, author of Playful Parenting. “You may believe that family time ‘should’ feel wonderful, but in fact it is stressful…you and your children are going to need extra attention to fill everyone’s cup, so try not to be frustrated because they weren’t filled when they ‘should’ have been.” Larry’s favorite way to refill cups fast? Try DEAP, he says: Drop Everything and Pillow fight, or two minutes of emergency Special Time for everyone, including you!

So this holiday season, if you or your kids are feeling more frazzled than usual, remember that Special Time can offer both of you the connective glue that brings you back to love and sanity, ramping up the giggles can reduce stress and ward off arguments and upsets, and definitely forget the ‘shoulds’!