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A Parent’s Guide to Sanity during the Holidays

I love gifts. Family at home for Christmas holidays.There is no doubt about it – the stretch of calendar from November to New Year’s is enough to drive anyone crazy – and if you’re a parent, it’s not a long trip! You’re still reeling from Thanksgiving and if you look hard enough, there are probably still left over mashed potatoes somewhere in your refrigerator; your list of social obligations and “fun” holiday get-togethers is off the charts; and of course, there are decorations to be hung, presents to be purchased and wrapped, and cards to be mailed. And by the way, the little humans in your house still need everything from you, plus a little more like teacher gifts, holiday outfits, Christmas cupcakes for preschool and more. It’s easy to be revving up for a breakdown – but we’re here to help!

Keeping your sanity during the holidays is a tough, but not an insurmountable task, and we’ve got a few helpful hints. So, why not take a moment (yes, just a moment), and read on how you can keep the crazy at bay, refocus your focus and enjoy this year’s holiday season? Here is our parent’s guide to sanity during the Holidays!

  1. The Priority Pitfall: The trap for most people is that they believe everything is important. While that would be wonderful, the reality is that there are only so many hours in the day, days in the week, and yes, during some of them you need to sleep. So, take a moment – and maybe a cup of coffee – and make a bucket list of what really needs to happen. Social obligations that are a must, gifts that will make – or break – Christmas, errands that have to happen, and important events that you won’t want to miss (be it the Preschool singalong or Christmas Concert). Weigh these against the nice-to-haves, like time for every wine and cheese party or cookie exchange, holiday cards that should go out but maybe won’t make it, and getting every last item on your family’s wish list. If you take an honest, hard look, you’ll find some places where you can let things go and say “Maybe next year” or “We’d love to, but . . . “
  2. Family First: All too often, we get so caught up in making everything perfect for our family that we somehow forget about our family. When it’s all said and done, this season is about being together, and sometimes, it doesn’t take a lot of accoutrements and extras to make that happen. As you’re scheduling all these magical memories, be sure you don’t fly through them so fast that you actually miss them and their enjoyment. Santa photos can happen in jammies; the kids don’t need to have coordinated outfits (or even Christmas PJs). An ice skating outing is no fun if Mom and Dad are too exhausted to enjoy it. And sometimes the things we think our children can handle, like decorating Christmas cookies or trimming the tree, is just too much for them (and our sanity). In that case, do it yourself and tell the children “elves came last night!” As you’re planning and preparing, think about what your family will really enjoy – and what would “look perfect” on Facebook, but not really be.
  3. Schedule Some Nothing: Yes, you heard correctly. In this season of double and triple bookings, schedule some time to stay at home in pajamas and do a little nothing. Sit on the couch with your kiddos and watch their favorite show; read with them. Work in the naps that have gone by the crazy schedule wayside. Sit at the table and eat lunch together; pull out the crayons and color – by all means, color! Not every day has to be about holiday cheer, and it’s OK to just do Tuesday.
  4. Get Outside: Not to go back on our premise of prioritizing and family first, but get some outside time for your kids, preferably once a day (weather permitting). A walk, playing in the backyard, the local park – any of these can work. You want your children to have time for physical activity; you could always use the break from errands, cooking and cleaning, and by the way, it’s fun, not to mention healthy, for everyone. It doesn’t have to be magical, it doesn’t even have to be holiday-related; it just has to be what you and your kids normally do for outside time. Believe us when we say, this is one stress reliever the whole family will want to keep!
  5. Go With The Flow: The bottom line is that this is a crazy time of year. So, despite a priority list that you’ve slimmed and trimmed; despite your carefully laid out schedule of fun and family time; despite the fact you’ve done almost everything on your errand list, life still goes awry. You’re a parent — and nothing can derail the best intentions like children can! So, sometimes, you just have to go with it – when your child is having a tantrum at Christmas dinner, when those mashed potatoes are suddenly on your ceiling fan, when the kids are sick despite flu vaccinations, when half the gifts you bought are wrapped in grocery bags, when there is permanent marker on your baby’s new holiday dress or when your child is NOT doing well on the trip even though he normally loves riding in the car. Ironically enough, the trials and tribulations of today become those magical memories of tomorrow. So, tackle each day with a fairly big dose of flexibility, try to win the battles you can, give yourself a break once in a while and try not to bank on things going just the way you planned. They rarely do!
  6. The Jones Do Not Exist: Everyone falls for this. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), fear that what you’re doing is not good enough, Mom guilt that so many others are doing more and doing it better. Guess what? They’re not. Yes, their Facebook photo may look perfect, but that is one minute out of the 1,440 there are in a day. So, please, as you worry about what to do or how you’re doing it, don’t compare or judge against everyone else that you know. The only people you really want to do right by are the ones living under your roof. Perfect families are on Hallmark channel; the rest of us are just trying our best.

There you have it! No magic pills, no secret elves, no 36-hour days – just a few tips to get you through the holidays with some sanity in check, a (fairly) happy family, some fun (and some frenzy) that you will recall fondly – even if it’s 5 or 10 years from now.

Happy Holidays and Happy Parenting!




Larkin, A.  (2017, October).  9 Tips for Staying Sane during the Holidays.  Retrieved from.

Peterson, Z.  (n.d.)  How to Keep Yourself and Your Kids Sane during Holiday Breaks.  Retrieved from