December 2023

Enjoy The Holidays More by Focusing on These Important Habits

If you are anything like me, this time of year your holiday schedule is already in full swing. In the past, we’ve had years where the holidays have been so hurried and stressed, I didn’t look forward to it, or really take the time to enjoy the time.  It is all to easy to get caught up in the day to day stress and check lists of the season and miss out on all the magic!  Finding the balance as parents is the key to helping our children enjoy the holidays and discover those hidden magic moments we all crave.   

Don’t overschedule

Over scheduling activities is easy to do. After all, there is SO much to do during the holiday season — go see family, attend 12 Christmas parties, go see Santa, see the lights, and the list could go on for days.

Because we tend to want to make the holidays special for our kids, we can sometimes overdo it, and miss the chance to slow down and enjoy the moment.

So what can help?    Simplify.

Schedule a few “do nothing” days during the holiday season

We all need peace and quiet, even our kids although they don’t always recognize it. So try and schedule out plenty of time to do nothing and see what happens!

One of my favorite memories was a “do nothing” day last Winter Break.

We intentionally planned nothing. We got up and made pancakes just because we were in the mood. Then, we sat in our pajamas for hours, laughing and chatting, playing a couple of games and watching a family movie — it was so simple, yet wonderfully memorable.

Times like this can be a much-needed reset for your family during the holiday season.

Sometimes the best thing we can give our children during this season is space to just be. We have found that this space gives us the opportunity to meet each child where they are at, instead of filling our calendar with endless activities.

Stick with traditions, but be flexible

I love, love, love family traditions! I mean I love them. Even as a teenager if my mom tried to change one thing about the holidays I would revolt. One time she suggested switching out candy canes on the advent calendar with a different candy, and I threatened to change families.

I have mellowed a bit out over the years but I still revel in holiday family traditions. Traditions give identity and a sense of belonging to your children. Rhythms help them know what to expect and what to look forward to. 

At the same time, having too many traditions can be draining.

Because of Pinterest and social media in general, we now have access to everyone’s traditions everywhere. It’s easy to start comparing and feel like we need to take on ALL the traditions in the world to make our holidays spectacular.

But sometimes, selecting the things that are truly important to who you are as a family, the more you will enjoy them. Simplicity will give you more mental and emotional energy to be present and that’s better for your kids than another tradition you feel pressured to keep up with. 


Involve your kids in holiday planning!

The more you get your kids on board with making holiday plans, the more you will get them excited about what's to come. Ask them to help you make a list of new things that would be fun for your family to try this holiday season, then vote as a family which one's you want to try.

Getting your kids involved in some of the planning and preparation helps them take on some of the responsibility for making the season enjoyable. It will also help them consider one another, as their sibling's ideas might be different than theirs.

Encourage an outward focus 

Some of the most precious memories during the holidays revolve around being more "outwardly focused" instead of "inwardly focused." This is the number one gift you can give your kids over the holidays is to help them understand that it's not always all about them. Here are some questions that can help frame selfless thinking.

  • Who can we serve this season?
  • What can we give this season?
  • Is there someone you know who might want a special gift this year?
  • What are some things you want to do for so and so?

One great idea is to turn the advent calendar into a way to serve!  Check out our Free Printable, 24 Acts of Kindness for December.  This makes what is traditionally a self-focused activity into an opportunity to look outward and think about others. 

Children learn by watching us. Take a brief internal inventory to ask yourself -- where are my energy, time, and money focused during the holidays? Is my time mostly taken up by decorating, shopping, making lists and attending parties? As all of those things are wonderful things, I can’t expect my children to be focused outward if I am not demonstrating that with my time and energy.

Let them see you take meals to families who need them. Bake cookies and let the kids deliver them to the neighbors. Help someone hang Christmas lights who can’t do it on their own. Make it a priority to help others enjoy the holidays and your kids will be watching! 

Let go of perfection

This one seems like it should be easy, but it's the one that's worth repeating the most.

Let go of perfection.

Would you rather remember the holidays with your children snuggling up under blankets and reading Holiday stories or making sure your mantel had the latest and greatest décor that year? Pick the things that are important and give those things your time and energy.

If making your home feel festive is a way that your family connects and enjoys one another then do that, but don’t feel like you have to bake every cookie under the sun. You get the picture. 

Do not waste your emotional energy trying to keep up with everything.

Choose carefully so that you still have the energy to play with your kids or serve your neighbor. Wanting everything to be perfect can easily steal your joy from the moment. Take time to be thankful for your family and your kids. They will notice. They will benefit light-years more from your peace and joy than from a perfect Holiday card or a perfect tree. 

Take a deep breath! You don’t have to do it all for your kids to have a great holiday season.

In fact, doing less is probably just what they need. Look at their little faces, serve together, read books, laugh, have tickle fights. Don't let the pressure of what everyone else is doing steal your joy! If you are enjoying the holidays they are likely to follow your lead!


 24 Acts of Kindness in December

Hang up this kindness calendar somewhere you’ll see it every day like on your refrigerator.

Each day, help your kids perform the act of kindness for the day.

Each day, celebrate their act of kindness and praise it.

Ask them how it felt to spread kindness.

Talk to them about why we are kind.

Celebrate their kindness this holiday season and that they focused more on giving than on receiving. 


Click on the image to download your



The holiday season is upon us and if you are a parent, you know that the holidays can bring both joys and challenges. For young children, the holidays are exciting, but also a bit overwhelming. With all the new experiences, new people and unexpected events, their behavior sometimes is a bit unexpected too. After years of facing family gatherings, big dinners, and trips with young children in tow, I thought I’d share a few holiday tips for parents that might just lessen the stress a bit.  I cannot guarantee that these tips will ensure that all your holiday events will go smoothly, but I think they will at least give you a heads-up on some issues to consider. 


It may sound like you are part of an elite air force squadron, but really this is just a fancy way of saying: set clear expectations. This doesn’t have to be all rules and regulations (although I usually include some of those), but the idea is to have a few minutes of calm before the big holiday event to sit down with your kids. During this sit-down, you can explain what’s going to happen at this event, the timeline (i.e., when are we opening presents!), who will be there, etc. Kids love routine and it helps them to know when something big is happening that is outside the normal routine. This also helps clarify any rules beforehand so there isn’t any confusion about expectations.

Example: Your family is going over to grandma’s house for Christmas dinner. You might explain to the kids who all will be there, any big events that are happening and your expectations regarding dinner behavior, consumption of sweets, etc. This is also a good time to remind kids what happens when it’s time to leave or if there are any rules of the house they should be aware of.


Again, this sounds like you’re setting up for a mission (and you sort of are) but it’s really simple. A reader actually gave me this great holiday tip for parents–set up a code word that kids can use with you at big gatherings if they get overwhelmed, need to find a bathroom, need a break, etc. When they have a need, they just go to you and use the code word. This is helpful because some kids don’t want to be embarrassed in explaining their issue in front of other adults. This way, they can express that they have a need and you can respond, without any big scene or embarrassment. Great idea!

Example: you establish a code with your 6-year-old so that if he feels overwhelmed or needs a quiet place to hang out, you can find that for him at the gathering. This can be especially helpful for kids who struggle with loud spaces or crowds.


This related to the code word idea but it’s slightly different. This holiday tip for parents is one that is often overlooked. Kids with different temperaments can have very different reactions to big gatherings and social situations. Introverted kids may struggle with becoming overwhelmed and need a quiet place. Extroverts, on the other hand, may thrive during the party with all the social engagement but then meltdown when it’s time to leave. It’s helpful to consider your child’s possible needs beforehand.

Example: if your child is introverted, you might find a quiet room or corner they can go to if they become overwhelmed. If your child is more extroverted, you can discuss the process for leaving and how to prevent a meltdown when it’s time to go.


This is one of those holiday tips for parents that seems obvious until you are actually in the situation and then it often gets pushed aside. As best as possible, try to set your child up for success. Try not to expect your toddler to act like a 10-year-old at a big social gathering. This can be hard because, during the holidays, other adults are expecting many things of us–dinners out, meeting up with relatives, etc. Sometimes, these events are just not kid-friendly, but our kids often have to come along.

Example: you’re invited to a big family dinner in a setting you know is not toddler-friendly. My best advice is to be as prepared as possible. Bring small toys, coloring, snacks, etc. to keep your toddler occupied as much as possible. Scan the area of any obvious breakable items or hazards when your arrive. Try to have a sense of humor about the whole thing and if possible, leave early 🙂


During the holidays, it’s common for kids to receive gifts and it’s equally common for parents to want to encourage their kids to be grateful for what they receive. This issue can become the bane of parenting existence during the holidays. While I’m a HUGE proponent of fostering gratitude, very young kids really have a limited concept of this idea. Personally, when my kids were young, I did try to encourage a “thank you” from them, but many times it’s half-hearted. To my mind, this is okay and it actually establishes a good habit of mind so they eventually learn what “thank you” means. However, if your child is resistant to saying “thank you” I don’t think it’s worth it to force the issue too much (for young children). As children mature, the expectation for expressing gratitude is higher and kids usually understand and can express it better.

Example: your toddler receives a gift from a relative. You can try the classic parenting line of “what do you say?” and hope that they’ll say “thank you.” If your toddler doesn’t understand, you can always say thank you for them or try again later.


There have many several thoughtful posts online recently about the issue of kids not being forced to hug relatives or friends. This, of course, is a big change from our childhood when we were often forced to hug long-lost relatives that we had never seen before. I, for one, am glad to see this change in our cultural norm. From a young age, kids can learn about consent in these simple ways. Plus, it really prevents a lot of awkwardness with relatives if they understand your child’s feelings. 

Example: you and your kids are meeting up with relatives that your children have never met before. If they are old enough to understand, talk with your kids about how the greetings might work. Do they feel comfortable hugging their relatives or would they prefer a fist bump, high-five or some other alternative? This is one of the best holiday tips for parents that I’ve come across recently about this topic–think about these things in advance. Discuss what your child is comfortable with and how to handle the situation to prevent social awkwardness from taking hold. 


This is one of those holiday tips for parents that is, of course, much easier said than done. We all plan to be ready to leave on time but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. With young children, always allowing more time to get ready is smart. Rushing at the last minute to put on shoes and fix hair just adds stress to the event for everyone. Kids sense when you are stressed and often do not respond well when that happens.

Example: if possible, plan an extra 15-20 minute buffer in your routine for getting ready and out the door. I find it’s also helpful to plan for some downtime for kids during the holiday season. Time for naps, quiet time or just time to play with their toys without being rushed on to another event.

Beyond these simple parenting tips for the holidays, perhaps the best advice I’ve ever heard regarding this season has more to do with mindset than anything else. A blog I recently read puts it like this:

Keep your hope high.
Keep your expectations low.

“This motto is what gets me through travel, holidays, church—basically 90% of life with kids.  Because high expectations are bound to cause disappointment. Your picture of the perfect holiday. Your picture of the perfect family. Your desire to do anything 100% your way, unfettered by other people’s mess or needs or humanity.

Hope on the other hand? Spacious. Surprising. Sustaining.”

Wow! That puts it all in perspective, doesn’t it? So, this holiday season my wish for you is that it is filled with hope and a renewed sense of calm. 

Wishing you all the best this holiday season!




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