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How to Survive the Holidays With Kids: Top 5 Tips For Parents

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While the holidays are a festive time of year, they're also a time of great stress for parents. There are presents to be bought, friends and family to entertain and money to be spent. And let's not forget the cooking, the cleaning and general tasks that are expected. The festive season, not surprisingly, can be one that causes anxiety for many of us who are trying to balance parenting along with all of the other responsibilities and expectations that come along in December.

The good news is that there are ways for parents to alleviate the stresses that are a very real part of the holidays. By following the tips below, you can survive the festive season with the kids -- and even enjoy them as well.

Following are tips on How to Survive the Holidays With Kids: Top 5 Tips For Parents

1) Set the Stage -- You're the role model and your behaviour is what your children will model, so lead by example. If they see you stressed out, they'll feed on that and the tension in the house will explode. If the kids see that you're calm, cool, controlled and reasonably stress-free, their attitude and actions will follow. Like anything, kids take their cues from us so show them that you've got everything under control and they'll follow suit.

2) Manage Expectations -- With holiday ads for various toys and games starting right after Halloween, it's no surprise that many kids are champing at the bit for what they think with be a Christmas morning extravaganza of unparalleled proportions. Visions of sugarplums may be dancing in their heads, but so are visions of the latest video games, must-have toy and more.

The expectations of a full bounty of gifts is one of the most stressful parts of the season, particularly for parents who are on a tight budget. Accordingly, now's the time to set things straight, and to let the kids know that they will indeed receive gifts, but within reason. This includes the gifts that they will be receiving from Santa Claus. Giving your children a full accounting of the specific details of your finances is not necessary. What is necessary is letting them know a) that you love them and b) the true spirit of Christmas is about family, love and kindness -- all of which don't have a dollar value.

3) Get Help -- Cooking, cleaning and shopping on top of your regular parenting and household duties is too much for anyone to bear. You're only one person and can only do so much, so be realistic and give yourself a break. Get help wherever possible. Is Grandma anxious to see the kids again? No problem -- drop them off and use the time to get some of your holiday errands done. Has your kindly neighbour offered to watch the kids or to host a playdate at their home? Take them up on their offer, guilt-free, and use the time to get caught up on your to-do list. Now's the time to take up friends and family on their offers of support.

4) Have a Game Plan -- Every parent knows that a bored child is a whiny child. For this reason alone, it's especially important to have a plan of action where your kids are involved this holiday season. With many schools closing early and not opening up until after the new year, you'll have your hands full with the little ones, particularly if they're not occupied. Have activities for your kids planned in advance in order to keep them busy. These can include playdates with other kids, movie and game nights with the family, and day trips within your city. The great thing about this time of year is that there are many inexpensive family-friendly activities that are happening around town -- the perfect distraction for children who are complaining about not having anything to do.

5) Relax the Rules -- Sure, bedtime is usually 8 p.m. for your little ones but they want to stay up late to watch one last Christmas movie. Or, in another scenario your good friends and their kids have dropped by for a holiday visit and they're still visiting well after 8 p.m. The little ones are having a good time and so are you, so relax and let them stay up late this one time. The world will keep turning and your stress level will be considerably reduced. It's OK to ignore the regular schedule of everyday life during this time of the year. When the season passes you can get the kids back to their regular routines.

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