The holidays…it really is the most wonderful (and let’s be honest…STRESSFUL) time of the year. Of course, the holidays are filled with cheer, happiness, celebration, gifts, laughter, friends, family, and excitement. In my opinion, nothing is better than reliving the excitement of the holiday season through the eyes of my children. Watching their little faces light up when I say the name “Santa” or their pride at their annual holiday show as they dance around to all the Christmas classics. There is truly nothing more magical. Looking back when I was young, I can recall the true bliss and magic of the holiday season. Not a care in the world or any stress at all. As an adult, the holidays are still wonderful and memorable. But honestly, managing holiday stress and the check lists of things to accomplish during this time of year can be overwhelming.
A love and passion for the holidays begins with the magical moments we experienced as children. Now, I can see what my parents did to make the holidays such an amazing and magical time of year for us. With all the gifts to purchase, the parties to host and plan, the out-of-town guests to prepare for, and all the days off school plus extra projects and shows just before the break, the holidays can be daunting.
7 Tricks for Managing Holiday Stress
Our family tends to take on the holidays like we are training for an Olympic sport, so I thought it would be helpful to give my top tips on managing holiday stress and how to rekindle some of that childhood magic. And while we’re on the subject of stress relief, I want to discuss modeling responsible behavior for our kids, especially in regards to alcohol. So let’s get started!
1. Prep and Do Everything You Can in Advance
My sister, Alison, is a firm believer in having everything planned out and scheduled so you are not stressing out trying to get everything done in a short period of time. And I have to admit, she’s right! With so much to do during the holidays, taking the load off of some of these things in advance can save a lot of stress and headache.
Purchasing gifts 2 months in advance takes the pressure off in December. If you host parties, preparing dishes that can be frozen and then simply placing them in the oven the day of the party saves a lot of time, work, and stress so you can relax with your guests that day.
2. Elephant Gift Exchange for the Adults
We started this tradition in our family a few years ago. There are so many people in our family and purchasing a gift for everyone can place a lot of financial strain and stress on people. We started an adult gift exchange where each person is assigned one other adult to buy a gift for. It takes some of the the financial burden off buying gifts for the entire family.
3. Have Guests Bring Recipes
If you host parties like our family does, ask guests to bring a dish. I think people like creating something delicious for the family, feeling like part of the party, and it takes some responsibility off of you.
4. Meditation App
We love the meditation app Simple Habit. It is amazing what taking 5 minutes to switch your mind set and focus on the present can do. When getting overwhelmed and feeling super busy and stressed, taking moments to stop, go through a guided meditation for 5 minutes, and then start up again really helps.
5. Bring Back the Magic of the Holidays for Yourself
Take some time during the hectic holidays to relive some of the moments you had as a child. Whether making cookies or looking at Christmas lights, I think it is important to remember what the holidays are all about.
6. Moments with Your Children
The holidays can get hectic with all the parties, friends, and family. We host and are always having out of town guests stay with us, which is great. But I always make sure to get some one-on-one time with my husband and children to experience the holiday season.
We like to do a big Christmas breakfast before all the out-of-town guests arrive. It’s a great way to take a moment to breathe, creating memories with your own family and managing holiday stress in the meantime!
7. Do Not Overindulge in Alcohol
It is very easy during this time of year to have that one extra drink while wrapping gifts or at the party to relieve some of that holiday stress. When you drink alcohol, you may relieve some stress in the moment but you may be even more stressed the following day due to the hangover response. I like to pre-plan a number of drinks I will allow myself to have and stick to it. Thinking about it in advance is a great way to ensure you don’t drink too much as a buffer for stress.
To Let the Kids Sip or Not to Sip – That is the Question
Speaking of alcohol, the holidays are a time of celebration, food, and parties. It definitely tends to be the time of year when people indulge more in delicious food and consume more alcohol. Between the toasts of celebrations, the feasts, and parties, alcohol consumption tends to be at an all-time high during the holiday season. The holidays can also be very stressful for people, which is another reason why alcohol consumption goes up this time of year.
As our children become a bit older, they become more aware and curious of any adult activities they’ve been clueless to in the past. When my children were toddlers and babies, they were not at all interested in my glass or two of wine. They certainly were not aware of subtle changes in behavior that may have occurred after drinking said wine. Now, being 10 and 6, they ask more questions about alcohol in general and what is in my glass. They observe the adults in their surroundings and notice the differences in behavior. In fact, they have even asked to try a sip to see what it tastes like.
So the big question is…
Do We Allow Our Children to Take a Sip of Alcohol?
Such a tough question. One that is a common issue to face in the journey of parenting. I think it becomes a very personal choice and one that each individual parent needs to make. For me, the choice to allow my children to try a sip of alcohol during the holiday season is simple. I do not allow my children to try a sip while they are underage.
Let me explain my reasoning.
1. Children’s brains are not developed enough to consume alcohol in any capacity.
Alcohol is NOT good for developing brains. While children’s brains are growing, throwing alcohol in the mix, even just an occasional sip, can throw the whole system off. Consuming alcohol regularly during this developmental stage can lead to irregular development of certain parts of the brain.
The brain tries to counteract the effects of the alcohol by releasing more chemicals to compensate. With long-term alcohol use, this compensation can become permanent, requiring the person to continue to consume alcohol to feel “normal.” And in children, the effects of alcohol are even stronger than in adults.
A child’s brain isn’t fully mature, and the part of the brain that’s responsible for logical reasoning is one of the last parts to fully mature. Your child’s brain is simply not ready for making important decisions about consuming alcohol.
For more information, Responsibility.org has a program targeting tweens and parents of tweens called Ask, Listen, Learn: Kids and Alcohol Don’t Mix, which includes excellent resources on how alcohol affects the developing brain.
2. As parents, we are our children’s biggest role models.
Did you know that the same sex parent is the #1 influencing factor in the kind of adult children will become? How we act, the messages we send, the morals we preach, and the values we uphold are crucial in influencing how our children will develop into adulthood. These little people absorb everything they see and hear. Especially in the early years when children are the most impressionable, and we are their biggest influence. I always try to consider this idea when I make any choices. I want to ensure those decisions reflect how I want my children to behave as adults.
3. I respect the law.
Asking for a sip of alcohol is a great way to start the conversation about abiding by the law. If we explain that the law does not allow anyone to consume alcohol until 21 years of age but then allow a sip, are we sending mixed messages? Abiding by laws and rules is imperative in teaching children how to be functioning responsible adults. Respecting laws and understanding that these rules are the foundation of a society and life are crucial in a child’s development.
4. It is a chance to teach responsibility.
We are responsible for the messages, values, rules, and morals we instill in our children. We can utilize the topic of underage drinking as a way to introduce responsibility and moderation. I showed my son videos and news headlines of the devastating consequences and possible outcomes of underage drinking and being irresponsible.
This honesty is a great way to show children they are not equipped to understand the effects or consequences of alcohol. It is not okay to consume alcohol until they have learned the tools of moderation and responsibility.
I actually took this conversation with my son one step further and discussed the importance of not drinking and driving. In fact, speaking to children about who is the designated driver during holiday parties is a great way to model safety and responsibility.
Difference in Opinions
Now I understand that parenting journeys are different and people have many opinions that are not the same. This diversity makes our world so amazing and people so unique. Many parents feel confident allowing their underage children to try a sip with their families during holiday celebrations. Some parents may have experienced sipping around a holiday meal with their families as kids and believe allowing underage children to sip does the following:
- Takes the appeal away – it loses the danger and allure when allowed.
- It’s okay to allow children to try alcohol in the security of their own homes.
- It can teach kids to drink responsibly.
These ideas are all important and valid things to consider. Again, every parent is unique and different in their journey of parenthood. Regardless of your decision, being a role model for responsibility, respect, moderation, and leadership are crucial during this impressionable time.
We encourage everyone to refer to the #TalkEarly website for more information on building a lifetime of conversations with kids around alcohol responsibility.
Final Thoughts on Managing Holiday Stress and Modeling Responsibility
We want everyone to have a wonderful holiday season. Try and take a few moments to bring back some of the childhood magic of the holidays. I hope these tips for managing holiday stress are helpful.
Parenting is one of the most challenging yet incredibly amazing roles we will take on in our lifetimes. For us, there is no better, more inspiring experience. We are honored to be an ambassador with Responsibility.org and #TalkEarly to help parents along the way with their journey.
Happy Holidays, everyone!