Andrea Loewen Nair: Connect-Four Parenting


7 Ways to Cut Stress During the Holidays

simplify your holidays

I remember Christmas the year my second child was born, and my oldest was two-years-old – it wasn’t pretty. The pressures to continue holiday traditions, bake up a storm, send Christmas cards and create memories to last a lifetime were close to getting the better of me.

One day a lovely older woman looked at me with care while I was carting my two young children through the decoration aisles at the store. She must have smelled my exhaustion and sweetly said, “You can skip Christmas this year.” I sobbed. Later I realized this lady was on to something. I actually did give myself permission to do a seriously scaled-back Christmas that year.

Your Holiday Stress Survival Guide

You can skip the holidays, or at least do a paired-down version when you have little ones or are feeling overwhelmed.

The holidays can be quite stressful, but much of that stress is due to pushing ourselves beyond what is necessary. Our children can be ecstatically happy with very little. Often it is our own expectations, or the feeling we need to compete with family members or friends to create the holiday of our child’s dreams, that drive us over the edge. Our children want us much more than things.

Here are my suggestions to pull the stress out of the holidays:

Make a budget and stick to it!

Decide the total amount you are going to spend on everything, not forgetting alcohol, food, lights and decorations. Many families get swept up in entertaining, one more stocking stuffer, and one more box of chocolates, panicking when the credit card bills arrive in January. Be proactive about your spending. These things will not make us happier – we don’t need them to make the holidays better.

I love the post called, “Holiday Shopping. We Can Do Better.” by Joshua Becker on He started the post with a quote from Dr. Seuss, which is always a great way to begin! My other favourite line in the piece is: “We can choose to value relationships over purchases.”

The Best Gift You Can Give Your Kids? This

Do baking only if you have time and you enjoy it.

Are you on the Yummy Mummy Club newsletter? I ask because this morning I just got an email from YMC with a bunch of awesome, easy baking recipes. You can go into the "Recipes" section on the front page of this website or "Foodies" in the menu at the top to find these recipes.

That year I took Christmas mostly off, I chose to belly up to a church bake sale and seriously bought them out. If you go to bake sales, bring cash and get there early! I also found a bakery with super dainties, and actually have been buying those each year, and have skipped baking squares ever since.

Coach children to be content with a smaller number of gifts.

Your children can be happy with 1-3 presents instead of 13. Take time to coach your children about quality versus quantity during gift-receiving time. Your children will not love you more if you blow the bank on their gifts. Show your love with your daily interaction with them, not by guiltily buying more than they need. Also, any time you spend with your children and not at the mall is better for you and them.

I love the article “All I want for Christmas is… everything!” in the December 2013 edition of Today’s Parent magazine about setting limits with gift buying. The writer Ceri Marsh gives great suggestions to stop “spoiling” children without being the bad guy. I discovered in this article that travel writer Helen Greenwood Davis, along with her children, decided to forego presents altogether. That is an interesting concept — do you think your family would go for that?

Top Five Easiest Christmas Cookie Recipes

Simplify gift giving for family members/friends by sending a picture instead of presents.

As I mentioned above, time spent in a mall may not be time well spent. Running around buying presents for many people can wear on the environment, our kids, our nerves and our pocket book. I know many of my family members would rather see pictures of our kids than get material objects. Hey family, guess get what you’re getting this year?! 

Use the term, “No, thank you.”

You do not have to go to each event you are invited to. I know it can be hard to say “No,” but sometimes that might be what we really need to do.

Tracy Moore of Cityline mentioned this to me, “I’m trying to be really pro-active about protecting my sanity this holiday season and I've already pre-emptively said no to almost every event that's come my way. So far it's working!” I love this! Although events can be really fun, if you don’t feel rested enough, it might be more enjoyable to have a great night’s sleep and feel better the next day.

Remember that your friends want to see you, not your decorations or hors d’oeuvres.

Time with people you adore is what counts. Don’t wait until you have your decorations, food or house-cleaning done perfectly to have people over. My husband just informed me, “Most of our friends would be just as happy with a bag of chips and a great drink.” (But maybe that's just our friends!) You know, I think he’s right. People want to spend time with you, not your décor. (Although, when I am feeling rested and the creative bug does hit, I rely heavily on Sarah Gunn for help in that department. She’s Canada’s Martha Stewart, but better.)

Send a personalized email note and picture instead of hand-written cards.

I know that receiving cards at holiday time feels good, but it is okay if you need to take a year or two off of this and send out an email letter instead. You can create a lovely, heart-felt letter with a picture inserted into the body of the message (avoid sending an attachment that can get caught in a spam-filter). I sent email notes for a few years and loved getting the replies that many people sent back.


I’d love to hear things you have discovered which reduced your stress at holiday time. You are welcome to post them here or over on my Facebook page

Photo -- Flickr Creative Commons Phae