Select Region
Helping Parents Make Better Decisions
Stop Holiday Stress!

Stop Holiday Stress!

This local child development and family expert provides tips to reduce stress for our kids and ourselves

The holidays are stressful for parents—the shopping, wrapping and entertaining guarantee that we’re exhausted by the time it’s over. That’s probably not news to you. But guess what? The holidays are stressful for your child, too.

To begin with, in order to accommodate parties and holiday rehearsals and other special December event, the school routine often becomes upturned. This can be fun—to an extent. But for most children routine is comforting. So the lack of it, combined with the later bedtimes that often accompany those events, results in over-stimulation. Even one or two late nights can trigger the stress hormone, cortisol, to elevate, causing your child to feel moody, anxious, or tense.

Even festivities with family and neighbors can take a toll. Being on their “best behavior,” dressed in fancy clothes, among people they don’t usually see too often, is a recipe for a meltdown.

Finally, shopping in crowded stores—unless, of course, it’s for them!—isn’t fun for kids. It’s boring. So eventually, they behave badly, you yell…and that’s not a merry moment for anyone!

While it is difficult to completely eliminate holiday stress, of course, try to do the best you can.

Remember these five rules for a happier holiday season for all:

Sleep is essential.

Resist the urge to be the last to leave gatherings, no matter how much fun you’re having. Neither should you give in when your child begs to ‘stay a little longer.’ You and your child will pay for it the next day when sleep deprivation results in cranky behavior.

Food is fuel.

Reduce stress on your child’s body by making sure that, in addition to holiday treats, you offer healthy foods. At this time of year, try to rely on home cooking and healthy sandwiches, rather than fast food, to counteract the inevitable treats that will sneak into your child’s diet throughout the season.

Shop without a hassle.

Kids and the mall in December are not a good combination. If you can’t shop without your child, do as much as possible online.

Pick your parties.

Don’t feel compelled to answer ‘yes’ to every invitation your family receives. Choose carefully, making sure your child still has some downtime during the holiday season. In addition, when your child must attend potentially boring family gatherings, bring toys or activities to keep her occupied. If appropriate, you may also want to bring (healthy) food that you know your child enjoys.

Manage your expectations.

Before taking your child to holiday events, shopping, or activities, reinforce your expectations for appropriate behavior. However, don’t expect perfection. Let it slide if your child doesn’t say thank you every single time, interact with each person perfectly, or enjoy each gathering.


How Do I Budget for Holiday Shopping?

How to Stay Connected with Your Partner Throughout the Holidays

Susan Bartell, Psy.D.


Susan Bartell, Psy.D., is a Long Island-based, nationally recognized child psychologist, speaker, and award-winning author. Dr. Bartell is a media expert, frequently seen on CBS, ABC, FOX, and CNN. She is the author of seven books, including the highly-acclaimed The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask. You can learn more about her at or follow her on Twitter @drsusanbartell.

See More

Featured Events: