A Parent’s Guide to Managing Holiday Stress

The holidays are filled with excitement and gifts but also high expectations, stress and exhaustion. We tapped Elizabeth Baron, LMHC to share her best tips for approaching the holiday season.

The holiday season is often filled with excitement, gifts, and a lot of togetherness. It’s also filled with high expectations, constant attempts at a family photo, traveling from one event to another, and often stress and exhaustion. This season is a lot on our minds and bodies and it’s totally normal to feel extra overwhelmed during this time period.

It’s also a time period for parents where the emphasis on caring for other people’s needs is significant. So noisy and so busy. Between shopping for the presents, organizing and wrapping the gifts, mailing out holiday cards, organizing the family get-togethers based on young childrens’ schedules, wrapping up work that takes place outside of the home, attending school holiday festivities, the list for parents just goes on and on. For so many, this time period also feels nearly impossible to find a moment to be a friend, colleague, daughter, or neighbor in addition to all of the parenting expectations. No time to listen to a podcast, nearly impossible to attend a yoga class uninterrupted, and even more of a luxury to schedule and enjoy a cocktail or cup of tea with a friend. 

We know moms are crisis and chaos managers, all year round. That they always have a million tabs open in their brain, and are trying to juggle everyone’s needs. Now, more than ever, it feels extra important to help mom focus on MOM and take a moment to think about how WE want to spend the holidays.

Here are some reminders to be thinking about as we approach the holiday season.

1. Skip the traditions that feel like obligations

I know, easier said than done. But it’s your turn now. Having this conversation with a partner ahead of time and getting them on board is a really important first step in establishing healthy boundaries. I know how challenging and nuanced this can feel around holiday traditions, just give it a shot.

2. Make time to be alone

This might look like asking a grandparent to do a puzzle with your child so that you can enjoy a hot cup of coffee. Remember, it’s normal to have a range of thoughts and feelings at all times of the year, but especially during the holidays, we need to remember that two things are always true. You can both want to spend quality time with your children and need time for yourself to refuel.

3. Give yourself grace

I mean it. You are a wonderful parent doing your best. And that is good enough. Now, give yourself more grace.

4. Hold space for all of the emotions that come up

Each year in my private practice, sessions during the holiday season are filled with parents processing how guilty they feel if they are dreading the holidays. It is understandable if you are having thoughts about how challenging it is to feel joy during “the most joyful time of year.” This is an experience felt by so many burnt out parents, and we need to give parents permission to feel like they don’t have to “fake it” during this time.

5. Make space for the (very) small moments of beauty

The hugs, the cuddles, the warmth of the fireplace, the candles you light, the sound of snow boots in the snow, the lazier mornings.

6. Remember it’s okay to say “no”

“No” to staying up extra late, “no” to the grandparents who tell you to put your children in time-out, “no” to the friends who ask you why you can’t go to the holiday dinner and leave your newborn just yet, “no” to the Instagram feed filled with “perfect” family photos and pregnancy announcements. You can say “no” and still be a grounded and connected parent. We must flip the script on how our society tells us that “good moms” sacrifice their needs for everyone else’s. While we know how magical it is to see your children light up from the gifts, the decorations, the cookies, and all the fun, we know our children and loved ones need us to fill up our own cups too.


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