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Are you looking to cut down on your family's holiday stress?

Practical Strategies for Holiday Stress Management

Raise your hand if you've had a moment like this. I have! The holidays can be joyful and fun, but they can also bring feelings of frustration, resentment, anxiety, anger, and grief. Stress and anxiety are a major concern this holiday season for a variety of reasons.

Family traditions and obligations can be a huge source of stress. No matter your parenting style, family culture, or holiday expectations, baseline parenting is always responsible, nurturing, and supportive. Your traditions around celebrations, family, travel, and outings must demonstrate that basic level of parenting. 

Take a good, hard look at your family traditions. If they are causing conflict, stress, tantrums, or tears, it's time to review them with your partner, kids, or other family members and look for ways to change them, or stop them, maybe just for this year! 

"But we have always done it this way!"


Don't fall for the guilt of "ruining your family traditions". Generally speaking, it takes about 3 attempts to create a new tradition. Year 1 is the weird year. You've changed something, no one like change, it's fine, they will get over it. Year 2 is the, "oh, we're doing this again?" year. In year 3, the tradition is cemented. Adults have the ability to change and be flexible. It's okay to stop traditions if they cause suffering!

If you are concerned about the stress level in your home, here are some practical ways to help: 

1. Desire for Connection: Your partner, kids, and pets value the moments when you are there for them, offering a listening ear, sharing in their joys and challenges, being curious about their interests, or rubbing behind their ears. Everyone yearns for relationships built on trust, respect, and love. We achieve this by sitting calmly, giving our full attention, with no judgment or criticism. By recognizing and honoring this desire, you can strengthen the bond you share with your loved ones. Is there something on your holiday list you can skip or modify to create this time?

2. Experiences Over Materialism: In a world that emphasizes material possessions, it's essential to remember that happiness and fulfillment come from experiences and meaningful connections rather than expensive gifts. Encourage this perspective shift within your family by giving gifts like mom or dad lunch dates, mani/pedis dates, sporting events, movie or theater tickets, museum dates, or outdoor adventures. Focus on their interests and personalities. This shift in thinking will help prioritize what truly matters in life and the value of shared moments. Is there something fun you want to do with your kids or partner this year? 

3. Create Lasting Memories: Your attention, curiosity, and encouragement have a lasting impact. They create cherished memories that both you and your loved one can look back on with fondness. Do something you haven't done before with your loved ones, like a new puzzle, or play a game, or check out a neighboring town's events. Shared adventures, whether big or small, are the building blocks of strong relationships. You'll create a bunch of shared stories and laughter, deepening your connection. When was the last time you had fun?

4. Financial Awareness: Be transparent. Discuss your budget for the holiday season with your partner and teenagers. Financial stress can be a significant source of anxiety during this time. Include them in discussions about gift-giving and emphasize the importance of thoughtful, meaningful gifts rather than extravagant ones. Model how to show appreciation with creativity and humor. This can help alleviate financial stress and build happy memories. Could you stand to spend less money on the holidays?

5. Relax: remember the importance of downtime? Force yourself and your loved ones to engage in activities they enjoy, whether it's reading, drawing, listening to music, or practicing mindfulness. Go on walks as a family or play a game. Exercise and play are great ways to manage stress! How do you relax?

6. Limit Screen Time: The holiday season often means increased screen time, whether it's browsing social media, playing video games, or watching TV. Set reasonable limits on the quality of screen time to ensure your kids have time for other important activities and interactions. There is a big difference between watching a 2-hour movie or scrolling TikTok for 2 hours. How do you limit your time on devices?

 I saw some cute, inexpensive gingerbread house kits at the store. If you can afford to, pick up a few. But, I guarantee if you say, "Hey I bought a gingerbread house, do you want to make it?" I don't care who your kid is, they're going to say no. Instead, open it, set it out, and encourage your teen to help you. Don't push, and worst case? You make a Spongebob gingerbread house by yourself. If your kid does help, accept their help gladly and let them gradually take over. Now listen, this gingerbread house will most likely be silly, sloppy, and even trashed. They might destroy it with their old Spiderman. Who cares? It will provide a fun time away from screens laughing with your kid. 

7. Supportive Network:  lean on your support network. Sometimes, talking to someone can provide a fresh perspective and emotional support. Try not to swim in negativity or bad mouth your loved ones. Your kids will see you taking time for yourself and learn the importance of positive connections from you. Who has your back?

This is a good time to teach healthy boundaries to your kids. Reminder: Boundaries are for yourself, and rules are for others. You can only control yourself. Empower your kid to say "no" or "no, thank you" when necessary, even to well-intentioned holiday commitments. Make sure your kids have a safe space they can go to when they feel overwhelmed, like their room, or your walk-in closet. Help them make choices that prioritize their mental and emotional health.

8. Gratitude Practice: more and more, we are finding that gratitude, the act of saying "thank you", is an antidote to stress, worry, and aggression. Calming your mind, and being thankful for something, anything, can help calm the body and spirit. Encourage your loved ones to practice gratitude by reflecting on their strengths and positive experiences. This can help shift their focus away from stressors and towards the joy and connection that holidays can bring. You need to do this too, so try it at family meals, bedtime, or first thing in the morning. What is something you looked forward to or made you smile today?

Dealing with holiday stress involves being creative, flexible, and willing to do less. It might be hard, and some people might get their feelings hurt, but advocating for you and your loved ones creates a supportive and understanding environment, by managing expectations, promoting self-care, and teaching valuable life skills. Remember that your encouragement, presence, and support are some of the greatest gifts you can give your loved ones during the holidays.

Leslie McReynolds is a Licensed Professional Counselor-Associate, supervised by Dr. Lisa Grubbs, based in Flower Mound, TX, and specializes in helping people dealing with anxiety, trauma, grief, and facing difficult life transitions and crises, such as divorce, chronic illness, and changing relationships. She uses creative and empathetic care to help her clients heal, grow, and transform. She is currently accepting new clients, you can find her at Flower Mound Counseling,, or at

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