Kids & Company Blog

7 Tips to go from chaos to peace this holiday season

This blog post was exclusively written for Kids & Company by Jenn Abbatiello. Jenn is a certified parent coach and founder of Your Transformed Family. She specializes in guiding families around the world to end frustration, guilt, and chaos and to find more peace, calm, and connection in parenting.

Holidays are a:

  • Time for a break
  • Time for rest
  • Time for good times
  • Time for family gatherings

Holidays can also come with:

  • Stress
  • Exhaustion
  • Overwhelm
  • Tantrums

The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy and family togetherness. And sometimes it is. But very often it’s not. Our culture and the media, from movies to TV and social media, makes us feel like the holidays are the happiest time of the year. Glorious time spent with family, the perfectly chosen gift, and a picture-perfect decorated home. But the holidays can also be filled with a lot of stress.

  • Your kids begging or whining to open gifts only to finally open a gift they don’t like and having an epic meltdown
  • Not wanting to wear the fancy outfits you got for them
  • Children being unable to sit still at the dinner table
  • Judgment from extended family on your parenting approach

All of this can cause you to grit your teeth and eventually lose it.

It doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve got 7 tips to help your home go from chaos to peace this holiday season.

Top 7 Tips for a Peaceful Holiday Season

  • Emotion preparation

Practice scenarios ahead of time that you think may cause your child to have a hard time. 

For example, if they can’t wait to open presents: wrap up some fake gifts and have fun tossing them around, challenge each other to make just one small rip at a time and go as slowly as possible.

If sitting at the table is difficult but expected over the holidays, have a “Firm tea party” where you act firm with the rules but then you break them. Remember that most young children can only sit for 5-10 minutes, especially if they are in a grown-up chair that isn’t the most suitable for them. You can also opt for a kids table, if that makes sense and is possible.

If your child has a lot of energy, make sure you are doing enough rough housing and other physical activities to get their body moving. If their need for movement isn’t met, they may go about meeting it in ways you do not want.

  •  Bring the calm

Your chemistry affects your child’s chemistry. It’s called neuroception. Our kids pick up on subconscious queues of safety or stress. When we are stressed, our kids know it. They know it because it is in our eyes, body language, gestures and tone of voice. All of this heightens their nervous system and makes them feel stressed as well, leading to challenging behaviour.

Here’s the thing, we are human and we all get stressed. I’m sharing this so that you can be aware that our stress is contagious. But you know what else is contagious? Our calm. 

Ask yourself: “What do I need to change in myself that will create more calm and peace inside of me?”

Keep reading to find ways to reduce your stress this holiday season!

  • Keep normal routines

Try to keep to normal morning & bedtime routines as much as possible. During the holidays, it’s easy for your kids to become over-stimulated. Though they might fight it, kids thrive on routine and predictability. Days might be busier, meals look different which can all lead to change in behaviour. As best you can, try to keep to normal morning and bedtime routines. And when you can’t, let them know it will be different and why. Giving them advance notice of a change helps as well as setting expectations that it isn’t a new normal but for this time only.

  • Lower expectations

Slow down and simplify. I get it. This sounds easier said than done. Maybe there are lots of expectations from extended family and friends. Perhaps you have this vision of this perfect holiday but what if slowing down actually allows you and your kids to appreciate what matters most? Ask yourself, “What is most important to me?”  Have I left time to give my kids the attention they need and deserve or have I jam packed our schedule and am too busy to slow down? Less is more. 

  • Get your children involved

If you slow down and lower expectations there is also an opportunity to get kids involved which checks so many boxes. It helps you check something off of your ‘to do’ list, it fills your child up with attention, and it's a great opportunity for bonding — all while instilling a sense of purpose and autonomy in your child.

So, maybe you can bake one recipe together. No need to make 10 different kinds of cookies. Let them help with putting up holiday decorations. This was a hard one for me, especially the tree decorating as I wanted it picture-perfect. But you know what, I reminded myself of what was important to me. Family time and supporting the kids to feel good. They loved decorating the tree and ‘done’ was better than ‘perfect’. They looked at their accomplishment with pride and I tried not to cringe too much that all the ornaments were on the lower half of the tree.

  • Make it about more than gifts

Focusing on traditions you want your family to have, helps shift the focus from gifts. For example, some of our traditions include a visit to Casa Loma, skating and skiing, and watching holiday movies as a family.

This is not to say that our kids don’t want or ask for gifts but we set expectations around it, with family as well. We don’t have much family so that isn’t a huge issue for us but one idea to keep it simple is to use the “4-gift Christmas” strategy. This saves everyone time and money when it comes to holiday gifts.

1.A gift of wonder — something they really want 

You can have them rank what’s on their wish list and set a budget. My kids love going through the catalogs that come in the mail and initialing the ones they want. Makes me think of when I was a kid and the Sears catalog would come. Yes, I am aging myself here.

2. A gift of need — clothes, underwear, socks. 

3.A gift of meaning a homemade craft, scrapbook or family outing. 

4.“Santa” gift if appropriate in your home.

  • Be kind to yourself

We all have an inner dialog that goes on in our heads. It’s called self-talk and with practice you can control it and shift it to be positive. Have some mantras you can say to yourself to help you get through the stress. You might say to yourself the following:

“This is hard but I can do hard things.”

“They are having a hard time, not giving me a hard time.”

Try to be aware of the negative self-talk and reframe it with a mantra like one of the above or come up with something that is supportive for you.

If you lose your cool, that’s ok. Focus on repair and reflect on what you were needing at that moment. Check-in with yourself regularly, asking yourself, “What am I needing right now?” The more we get used to getting intune with our own needs and looking for ways to get them met, the less likely we are to lose our cool.

You’ve got this!

The holidays can be filled with peace and joy and wonderful memories. Practice these 7 strategies to set yourself up for success.

Focus on what you can control, and that is you. 

Join us for a webinar on December 13th at 12pm EST. I will be discussing ways to manage the holiday chaos. Learn more and register here.

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