How Parents Can Manage Holiday Stress

How Parents Can Manage Holiday Stress

Askar Abayev / Pexels

Source: Askar Abayev / Pexels

The holidays are an exciting and happy time for many people. However, it’s important to recognize that the holidays can also be very stressful for many parents and families. The increased financial costs, fatigue, and lack of routine associated with traveling (especially with young children) and visiting family when relationships may be strained can weigh on parents. Additionally, the holidays can also be a challenging time for those who have experienced loss.

How can parents proactively ensure that the holiday season is manageable and brings more joy than pain? How can they line up to be resilient during this busy season?

A framework created by Cohen, Mannarino, and Deblinger called the “Three Ps” can provide a good roadmap for parents.


Most people know the things that are most likely to cause their family the most stress. Is it a relationship with a particular relative that always causes tension? The interruption in your child’s bedtime that caused the meltdown? The hosting tasks that completely overwhelm you? Or is it the first vacation you will experience without a loved one? Forecast the factors related to the holiday celebrations that are likely to cause disruption.

To plan

Make a plan for your family to mitigate some of the factors that are most likely to stress you out. Here are some examples:

  • Stay with a different relative than in previous years.
  • Consider setting limits on hospitality (e.g. everyone does something for the meal) or leaving the party earlier than expected to accommodate your family.
  • Travel a day early to put the kids on a better schedule.
  • Limit gift-giving costs and notify friends and family in advance.

Plan for extra support when you need it, whether it’s extra childcare, a reduced workload, or simply spending time with the friend who will be the most effective listener.


Give yourself permission for your feelings. Allow yourself to do what you need to do to have a manageable and meaningful holiday season. You don’t need to apologize for setting healthy boundaries for yourself and your family. Refrain from spending more than you can afford or doing more than you are physically able to do. Instead, allow yourself to sit out that one, apologize for a good cry, and send your partner to a celebration alone if necessary.

Take away all the “shoulds” associated with the holidays. It’s normal to have a hard time, even if it feels like you should celebrate with others or be happy when you’re really sad. Sometimes it’s not just meeting someone else’s expectations that creates pressure, but meeting our own as well. So be kind to yourself and try to unburden yourself of these inner and often unrealistic expectations.

By predicting, planning, and allowing yourself a holiday celebration that addresses your needs and those of your family, you can have a more resilient and prosperous holiday season.

Happy Holidays!

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