Ask SAFE: How do I manage holiday stress as a parent?Written by Liz Garbutt
The holidays are very stressful to me. I always seem to put additional pressure on myself to make things perfect. My children are young, and lately I find myself getting very frustrated when they misbehave, which leads to fighting and yelling. How can I manage my anger and stress during this busy time of year?
Yes, you are right – holidays can be stressful for both parents and children! Managing stress is important because children often absorb the emotions of their parents. It is helpful to be mindful of the added stress and take time to be intentional about enjoying the season.
It’s important to be realistic when making your holiday plans to avoid becoming overwhelmed. It’s OK set boundaries and say “no” to extra activities if they will lead to extra pressure or stress. It might be hard, but asking for help with planning, cooking, or other tasks can relieve stress and give you the support you need. Most people understand and want to help when they can!
Try setting expectations beforehand, whether it be about financial expenses, family activities, or travel. Also try to stick to your normal routines as much as possible; straying from normal routines can make children stressed and lead to misbehavior. Keeping normal bedtimes, regular and healthy meals, and play breaks will make the holiday season more enjoyable for you and your children.
My wife and I divorced earlier this year, and this will be the first time that my kids won’t spend the holiday with both of their parents together. How can I make sure this change is as smooth as possible for my children?
Many of us remember that first holiday, after our parent’s divorce, when we split time during the holidays. It can be hard and stressful for everyone.
The most important thing you can do is avoid confrontation and be positive about the new reality of your lives. Negotiate and compromise with your children’s other parent. Working together as much as possible will make the holiday less stressful for your children.
Children are perceptive and can feel your emotions. Being aware and supportive will help them adjust and feel loved.
This has been a hard year for us financially. Whereas in years past we were able to provide lavish holidays for our kids, this year will be much more lean. What can we do to still celebrate and create wonderful holiday memories for our kids?
While it is true that the focus during the holidays is on gifts and material goods, often what people remember most clearly and fondly are the family traditions and activities they experienced as a child. I vividly remember making cookies with my grandmother, mother, and cousins.
It might be a great time to create family holiday traditions. You could plan to spend the holiday going on an adventure, a hike, a bike ride, or visiting a nearby town. You could have a family game tournament or movie marathon. You could only exchange homemade gifts. You could volunteer to work with the people experiencing homelessness, or at the animal shelter, or any type of work helping your community.
Connecting with your children over fun activities and meaningful interactions can make your holidays special and memorable for your whole family.
While stress doesn’t cause abuse, for people who have grown up being abused or witnessing abuse in their childhood, stress can quickly send you back to that learned behavior – be it fleeing from conflict or doubling down and engaging. If you are that person, be intentional, take care of yourself, have a trusted person you can talk to if you. Or call, chat, or text SAFE’s 24-hour SAFEline for support. Advocates are available by phone at 512.267.SAFE (7233), by text at 737.888.7233, or online chat at safeaustin.org/chat.