12 stress-free holiday solutions

Are you experiencing seasonal madness at your house? We have pointers, plus reader tips, to keep you calm and carrying on.

By Kerrie Lee Brown
12 stress-free holiday solutions

12 stress-free holiday solutions

Tips and tricks

For most families, the holidays are exciting — filled with laughter, late nights and cheer. But at the same time, they can be very overwhelming. With strained budgets, family obligations, additional travel plans, and the kids hyped up about being out of school for two weeks, this happy occasion can soon turn your household upside down, making you frazzled instead of festive.

Here are some tips to help keep everything (and everyone) in line this season so you can enjoy the last few weeks of the year with peace of mind.

A version of this article appeared in our December 2012 issue under the headline "Holiday Planner: Have a peaceful holiday," pp.12-13.

12 stress-free holiday solutionsPhoto: dejanristovski/iStockphoto

Have your kids help

By getting them involved in all the preparation, you will be teaching your children responsibility. Take the time to sit with them and come up with a list of chores they can help with over the holidays — such as helping to decorate the house, wrapping gifts, baking cookies, taking out the garbage, doing the dishes, etc.

If your children are old enough, this is also a good time to go over budgets and explain the value of not overspending.

12 stress-free holiday solutionsPhoto: sjlocke/iStockphoto


Stick to the plan

Before the big gift-giving day, there are many last-minute items to check off your list, and there’s no time to procrastinate. Try to do all of your errands in one shot and unaccompanied by kids, if possible.

12 stress-free holiday solutionsPhoto: Maxiphoto/iStockphoto

Focus on giving

Learning appreciation is an evolving, and sometimes complicated, process for kids. Let your children know that gifts from the heart are priceless.

They can make things for people they love, such as handmade necklaces, ornaments, or frames reserved for a special photo. When the focus is on what they can both do and give, the gimmes tend to get lost in the background.

12 stress-free holiday solutionsPhoto: MivPiv/iStockphoto

Share the spirit

Have your kids choose gifts for a toy drive, or sponsor a family in need. These simple acts of kindness will teach your children about the true meaning of giving, and will resonate with them in years to come.

Children are usually willing to participate in anything that makes others happy, especially when they feel like they are making a contribution. By setting a good example as a parent, your kids will continue to learn from you as their role model.

12 stress-free holiday solutionsPhoto: bmcent1/iStockphoto


Have fun together

Spend your time doing things as a family — skating, decorating, playing board games, or visiting family and friends. The holidays are a great way to regroup as a unit when there are so many activities and events around your community.

Plan a trip to the mall for a visit with Santa; or go for a walk outside in the snow, then home for some hot chocolate. It’s the little things we do as a family this time of the year that reminds us of the true meaning of the holidays.

12 stress-free holiday solutionsPhoto: MariaPavlova/iStockphoto

Combine duties

"Start early, play carols to get you in the mood and don't be afraid to enlist help! Last year's Christmas dinner was a potluck and everyone enjoyed it just as much as if I had done all the work myself. If he doesn't have to do the shopping, your partner should happily wrap up the presents."

— Cheryl Major

12 stress-free holiday solutionsPhoto: slav/iStockphoto

Shopping trip

"For the last few years, my mom, sister and I take a shopping trip to the States. We get a girl's weekend away from the kids and get a bunch of our shopping done at the same time!"

— Nichole Duguay

12 stress-free holiday solutionsPhoto: Darkcloud/iStockphoto


Give back

"Instead of getting gifts for friends and family, I donate to different charities on their behalf. It takes the stress out of finding that 'perfect gift' for people who already have everything."

— Diane Hagarty

12 stress-free holiday solutionsPhoto: MShep2/iStockphoto


"I like to allow myself a daily indulgence to wind down at the end of the day. A peaceful bubble bath, a sweet I don't usually eat or a glass of wine."

— Lacy Heidel

12 stress-free holiday solutionsPhoto: WebSubstance/iStockphoto

Start saving

"Starting in January, I put $20 per child in an envelope, by the time Christmas comes I have saved $240 per child. I also start to watch the sales in August to see if there is anything that my kids would like. When December rolls around I am almost set and can relax and enjoy the season."

— Christy Jo

12 stress-free holiday solutionsPhoto: Geoffrey Ross


Prepare ahead of time

"I take one day or two evenings in late November to prepare several appetizers and freeze them on cookie sheets. Once they are frozen, I package them in freezer bags. I find the little homemade touches are what guests remember.

I also love spontaneous parties. Mull some cider or wine, bake the apples and enjoy the evening."

— Paula Skalnek

12 stress-free holiday solutionsPhoto: og-vision/iStockphoto

Allot your time

"I make appointments with myself in my calendar for specific items, like baking and wrapping gifts. That way I'm not up until 3 a.m. Christmas Eve/Christmas Day."

— Melissa Horbas

12 stress-free holiday solutionsPhoto: GMVozd/iStockphoto

More holiday ideas!

12 stress-free holiday solutionsPhoto: ChristopherBernard/
This article was originally published on Nov 21, 2012

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