I LOVE the holiday season, but it can certainly become overwhelming and stressful. I never really felt that way until I became a mom. Then I realized why my mother was always a bit more on edge during December! Because, as a parent, I not only have to manage all my day-to-day responsibilities, but now I have to add in all the holiday stress — like events, gift giving, baking, decorating and traditions!
In my six years as a mom, I’ve learned a few tricks to make the holidays a bit less stressful. Here are my tips for a more enjoyable, stress-free December:
- Realize your kids (and you) need down time. Running from one fun event to another can easily get out of hand. There are A LOT of amazing things to do in December, but too much of a good thing is still too much! Schedule in two nights a week with no plans, and limit how many “things” you do in one day. That even includes baking at home. The fewer things you do, the less stressed and worried you will be about staying on schedule.
- Embrace paper plates. I am not one for being flippant about our environment, but dishes are one thing that can mount up easily and overwhelm me. Every December, I buy some cute Christmas paper plates and napkins. That way, when throwing parties at my home, I can keep the clean-up simple! Even in day-to-day life, using paper products a few days a week during this busy season can greatly reduce holiday stress.
- Semi-homemade is still homemade! When it comes to menu-planning or baking, I will use whatever shortcuts I can find to save time and energy. Pre-made sugar cookie dough comes in very handy for family cookie decorating! And heating up already fully-cooked meats or veggies is a quick way to pull off a healthy dinner. I just add some easy sides, like store-bought, pre-cut fruit or vegetables.
- Plan ahead. I know this one seems like a no-brainer, but it can seriously save you from the tantrum of a tired, hungry toddler. In your scheduling, think about each event you plan to do and everything that needs to be done ahead of time. Then, set it all up the night before. For example, my day may involve school drop-off, followed by a choir rehearsal, followed by preschool pick-up, then a nap, then school pick-up, then a playdate, then dinner out and a Christmas light display. So the night before, I prepare all the things I may need for the day. I even prep snacks and lunches so that everything is ready to go. Planning ahead helps my brain to relax in the evenings, and I sleep better knowing tomorrow is taken care of.
- Only add one new thing a year. With so many fun activities and events, it’s easy to want to add them ALL to your family’s traditions. But I have learned that it’s best to only tack on one new thing each year. For example, a few years ago we visited a friend’s home one evening to have dinner and see their enormous light display. It became an annual tradition, and now both families look forward to it. But one year we tried to go to a Christmas parade. We very quickly realized that taking small children outside in the cold at night was a recipe for disaster! We had to let that one go in hopes that maybe we can add it back in later in life. This year, we’re adding a weekly celebration of Advent.
What are your tips for eliminating the holiday stress for you and your family?