With a little planning—and forgiveness—surviving the holidays without losing your temper is possible
It’s the holiday season—you’re supposed to be happy, jolly, merry… right? RIGHT? Maybe not entirely. If you’re like most parents, the holidays come with equal parts Christmas cheer and seasonal stress. On one hand, we want to spoil our kids and feel their joy as they tear off the wrappings of their brand-new bikes or coveted toys—on the other, on the other, we can’t help but see red (the bad kind) as a result of all the ways they act out leading up to the big day.
And it’s no wonder: Between the added expenses, event overload, family drama, and travel plans, there can be more than merriment lurking behind those “perfect” holiday moments. In fact, according to a C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital report, one in six parents reports being more stressed during the holidays (with moms reporting twice as much stress as dads). As for what causes most yuletide woes, parents ranked holiday shopping, keeping kids healthy, household finances, party planning, meal-making, and criticism from family members as the biggest offenders
The holidays usually mean increased spending, a change of schedule, interaction with extended family, and of course, less sunlight, says Los Angeles-based psychologist Tara Klein. “We need to be extra careful about self-care during this time to have the emotional resilience for all the ups and downs that go along with the holidays.”
What that means is with planning—and forgiveness (of you and your kids!)—surviving the holidays without completely losing it on your little sugarplums is possible. Here’s how to make it happen:
Find Ways to Alleviate Financial Stress
If you’re worried about how to afford all those gifts—you’re not alone. A poll conducted by debt resolution company Beyond Finance found that more than two-thirds of people said holiday spending ups their stress levels—82 percent worried they won’t be able to pay for all the gifts they want to buy. Here are some tips for surviving the holidays when it comes to finances:
Make a budget—and stick to it. Be realistic about what you can spend and map out your gift-giving list on paper. Then, be sure to stick to your plans! Need some help? Microsoft offers this free budget-making template
Get creative with gifts. You don’t have to buy all your gifts; there are plenty of crafts and “I Owe You” items that your family and friends would be just as happy to receive. Offer your scrubbing skills to a relative in need of a car wash. Spend the evening babysitting for a friend overwhelmed with her littles (Best. Gift. Ever.). And, DIYers: From fresh-baked cookies to homemade photo gifts, this is your chance to shine!
Opt for whole-family gifts. If you have several siblings and an army of nieces and nephews, opt for whole-family gifts that can simplify your giving load. Family board games, outdoor lawn games, and food deliveries (like this candy care package or this gorgeous cupcake platter) can be easy cross-generational gifts.
Take advantage of free shipping. While there is an anxiety-ridden rite of passage to braving the mobbed post office during the days before Christmas—it’s unnecessary. Save money on shipping by taking advantage of stores that offer free shipping for purchases.
Be honest with family members. It’s OK to simmer down the expectations. Tell your extended family members that your budget is tight this year and that they’ll receive “creative” gifts (or just cards) instead of pricey gifts. Most people will welcome your honesty—it may even take the load off them, too—and you’ll feel better knowing everyone knows what to expect.