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Yes! You Can Actually Enjoy The Holidays

Holidays are often the most stressful time for parents, but they don’t have to be. Parenting expert Dr. Meg Meeker shares tips on avoiding 4 big stress traps.
Last Updated
April 22, 2019
posted on
December 6, 2016
Minute Read

I love the holidays, but let’s be honest parents, they’re stressful. I see a lot of you come through my practice the months of December and January because you’ve made yourselves sick from stress. This has to stop.

The holidays are a time for family connection, rest and reflection, not stress, fatigue, and conflict. 

Last year on my Parenting Great Kids Podcast I talked about the four main reasons we get so stressed over the holidays. These are timeless issues, so I’m bringing em’ back to you this year!

For your physical and emotional health, do all that you can to avoid these stress traps:

Unrealistic Expectations

Every year for Christmas, I want to bake all of my kids’, and their spouses’, favorite holiday cookies. I want my house to be neat at all times. I want to host all of my friends for a Christmas lunch. I want to entertain co-workers, send out holiday cards, and the list goes on.

Doing all of this is an unrealistic expectation I’ve put on myself. Moms are really good at this, especially during the holidays.

My advice? Confront your unrealistic expectations now. Write them all down, in order of priority. Then, fold the piece of paper in half. What’s on the top half of the paper? Whatever it is, that’s all you’re doing this year. Period.

Be ruthless about sticking to only the first half of that list, and let the rest go. Your stress will be cut in half!


Don’t be one of the sick people walking through my office doors in December and January. Fight holiday fatigue by pacing yourself.

Go to bed earlier. Reserve a few nights during December to do absolutely nothing. Make the entire family stay in, or go out with your spouse for a relaxing dinner. No parties, or gift wrapping or shopping. Just be.

Watch what you eat, too. Overeating affects sugar levels, which affects our energy. Give yourself permission to eat all those holiday goodies a few days a week, but on the other days, eat how you normally would. Your body is already under enough stress, it doesn’t need a sugar overdose.

Family Conflicts

This might be the biggest cause of stress during the holidays. Families can be difficult, and the anticipation of having to deal with those difficult relationships during the holidays causes way more stress than it’s worth.

Christmas isn’t the time to solve family disputes. It’s your time to enjoy your family. Set boundaries with those difficult relatives. This could mean not inviting them to stay with you over Christmas. Or it could mean that your family skips out on the big family meal this year.

That may sound extreme to you, but when it comes to the holidays, you can make them what you want them to be. If you want them to be fun and peaceful and restful, it might mean putting your foot down with certain family members. In fact, I would even say it’s your obligation to protect your family from those difficult relatives.

Get together with them later in the year. Reserve Christmas for joy and harmony.

Money Issues

Spending a lot of money during the holidays might feel good on Christmas Day as you watch your loved ones open gifts, but in January, when the bills come in—along with the stress—it’s a different story.

Overspending at Christmas is our problem, not our kids’. 

As someone who loves giving gifts, I understand this struggle. But overspending at Christmas is our problem, not our kids’. The reality is most kids like a gift on Christmas Day but have completely forgotten about it a week later. That’s why over the years I’ve simplified my gift-giving. I set a budget for each of my kids and buy them one gift a piece. And now that my kids are grown, I encourage them to do a gift exchange, so they don’t have to buy something for everyone in the family.

The holidays are also a great time to nurture your kids’ creativity by having them make gifts for family members. Not only is the gift personal and thoughtful, but it also engages their imagination and self-expression.

I’ve learned that having less under the tree often makes more room for joy in our home.

Parents, don’t let the holidays drag you down. Confront what causes you stress, deal with it, and enjoy this season with the ones you love.

Dr. Meg Meeker, MD

Practicing pediatrician, parent, grandparent, coach, speaker, and author. Say hello @MegMeekerMD

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