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How to Manage Stress and Anxiety Over Holiday Break with the Kids

It’s that time of year again. Your child is anxiously awaiting the arrival of the holiday break. They can’t wait to be home from school, have freedom in their schedule, and are super excited about the upcoming holidays. However, while they are so excited about it, it might be causing you a lot of stress and anxiety. And, their excitement can quickly disappear as they deal with this right alongside of you.

Remember that this can be a stressful time for children as well.

It’s easy to think that holiday stress only affects adults, but that’s not true. There are many children that experience stress and anxiety over the holiday season as well. Their schedules are typically turned upside down. They are staying up later and could be waking up earlier. They are running from one place to another alongside you and often don’t necessarily care for the activity that they have to participate in. Even their regular eating habits can be challenged during a holiday filled with sweet treats.

Even if they can handle the challenges they are facing, they may be picking up on your stress and anxiety. If you’re like many adults this time of year you could be stressed over your finances as you try to purchase gifts or be dreading having to see that certain person at a holiday function. Children are more perceptive than they are given credit for. They can feel your stress and tension as you work through the holidays.

Be the example.

The best way to help your child handle holiday stress is to set a calm example for them. If they see that you are becoming frazzled they are likely to follow in your shoes.

Learning how to practice mindfulness is an effective way to regain control when you are starting to feel the stress of the season and your schedule. You can move your focus away from the things that are causing you stress and anxiety and change it to the positive things that are happening all around you. You can also teach your child how to engage in this activity as well. It’s a useful skill for every person to have.

Don’t overschedule.

A schedule that is packed to the brim will cause holiday stress and anxiety for both you and your child. It can be difficult to maintain balance in your schedule this time of year because there are lots of invitations that are coming your way. But, if you accept every invitation that comes your way, you and your kids will soon be exhausted. When this exhaustion sets in, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by stress and anxiety.

Make sure that you schedule in downtime for your family. Put it on the calendar and make sure that you protect this time. It could be time that your child has to play quietly in their room while you read and relax, nap time, or even time for your family to sit together and enjoy a favorite Christmas movie. It’s not important what you’re doing with that time, just that it’s purposeful downtime to unwind.

Be intentional about self-care.

During the holidays you need to be even more intentional about self-care for you and your kids. Schedules are off, sleep patterns are disrupted, and there are sweets galore. Here are some tips that you can use for both you and the kiddos:

  • Watch what’s going in. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying some holiday treats, but don’t forget about healthy options as well. Make sure that your family is still getting in fruits and vegetables along with drinking plenty of water. Consuming more sugar and/or caffeine than we are used to can make us feel jittery, making it harder to deal with stress. The same is true for children. If you are at a party set a limit on how many treats everyone can have before you arrive. They can still choose their favorites to enjoy but won’t overdo it.
  • Take time to move. It’s hard to squeeze in exercise during the holidays when your schedule is already packed. But making sure you take time to move is good for the whole family. Take time to walk outside together, hit the local playground and let them run around, or if you have snow enjoy sledding or building a snowman altogether. The fresh air and exercise help to alleviate stress and can improve your sleep later that night.
  • Protect sleep when possible. Do your best to schedule activities that don’t interfere with the normal sleep patterns of your children. If your little one naps in the afternoon protect this time. If you have a family party that will keep them out late one night, try to follow it up with an early night in the next day. Proper sleep is important for dealing with stress and anxiety.

Change your focus.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season that we lose sight of why we are doing it all in the first place. Work to keep your focus on the people around you during this holiday season instead of all the to-dos. Instead of stressing about having to do all the gift shopping, focus on all the reasons you want to purchase the gifts you are getting.

Spend time appreciating those you love. Help your child to see the reason behind everything that’s being done during this busy time of year. Remind your entire family about the purpose of celebrating.

It can also be helpful to take your focus off your family entirely. Schedule a time to serve together at a homeless shelter, or purchase gifts for a family in need. Look for ways to be a blessing to others. Sometimes seeing the situations of others can help put our stress and anxiety into proper perspective.

For those times when it’s too much…

While stress and anxiety is something that all people deal with in one way or another, it’s not something to be taken lightly. If you or your child is becoming overwhelmed with it then it’s time to schedule an appointment with a local therapist. They can help you get to the root cause of the stress and teach you practical steps that can help you deal with it effectively.

How to Manage Stress and Anxiety Over Holiday Break with the Kids


Julie K. Jones, Ph.D., LPC

Julie K. Jones, Ph.D., LPC is the owner and director of Well Life Therapy, LLC, a private group psychotherapy practice in Middletown, CT. She and her clinical team offer a wide range of services and specialties including perinatal/postpartum support, trauma recovery, couples and family counseling, and teen/young adult assistance. She is a founding member and board member of the Connecticut Chapter of Postpartum Support International.


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APA Reference
Jones, J. (2018). How to Manage Stress and Anxiety Over Holiday Break with the Kids. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 22, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-to-manage-stress-and-anxiety-over-holiday-break-with-the-kids/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 19 Dec 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 19 Dec 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.