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Parenting Tips for the Holidays

Parenting tips can help ease the stress of the holidays.


Making gifts is also a good way to give kids a deeper sense of the holidays. Going to the craft store, planning a project, and gathering around to make things is also a good time for parents to give kids extra attention. So often the holidays involve grown-ups reuniting and catching up -- kids get shunted to the sidelines.

Tobias recommends that children should be encouraged to make their own wish lists -- but to also describe why they want each item, to think a little. This way, parents can gently modify expectations before the fateful unwrapping.

Start Your Own Traditions

Besides joking about Mom's annual nervous breakdown, you can start some other traditions:

Go to the Nutcracker, a lighting ceremony or just drive around to see house lighting

  • Build a snowman
  • Open an Advent card
  • Go to church or synagogue
  • Let kids' choose holiday music and parents can dance with them
  • Start a tradition of holiday meditation geared to short attention spans
  • Bring out the ornaments, if you have a tree, and reminisce about each one

Some other suggestions:

  • Put the kids in charge of videotaping or picture taking. Let them interview everyone each year. Landscape photographer Franklin B. Way suggests starting with disposable cameras. Encourage several shots of each subject before offering advice. Send kids out to take pictures of objects of one color. It will give you some free time.
  • Be flexible -- if kids want a traditional candy cane and gingerbread man tree, alternate that each year with your designer special covered in fiberglass and festooned with your collection of antique racing car ornaments.
  • Encourage kids to make New Year's resolutions. Share your own hopes for the coming year.

Coping With Divorce

The best time to consciously create new traditions, Newman says, is when the family has been touched by divorce, death, or some major change. "Even if it only means having dinner at a different time, try to differentiate between the past and now."

Marilyn Coleman, PhD, professor of human development and family studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia, suggests divorced parents create a separate holiday just for the family, one that is neither Christmas or Hanukkah, so kids won't feel guilty for spending time with one parent and not the other.

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