Tips for Maintaining Family Sanity During the Holiday Season


From Mary Muscari, associate professor at Binghamton University, State University of New York, and author of Let Kids Be Kids: Rescuing Childhood.

BINGHAMTON, NY – Have your holidays become more pain than pleasure? If so, take some time to recoup your sanity and make the holiday season the joyous time is was meant to be for you and your family.

• Remember the reason for the season. Have your family assist with and participate in religious, cultural and family traditions. If you don't have any traditions, start some. The holiday season is the perfect time to reflect on how these important aspects are really the core of your lives.

• Be realistic. Unless you have a huge staff at your fingertips, don't expect cover-photo perfection. Besides, you'll cherish the memories of the bloopers, not the lump-free gravy.

• Make a to-do list that has something already done and scratched off. It feels much better to have something that verifies you've finished at least one thing.

• Start early. Buy ahead for the not-so-picky folks, and give the kids a reasonable deadline for writing their wish lists. Tell them to put alternatives on their list to prevent the stress from the yearly toy sellout. Santa's elves aren't even perfect. If you didn't start early this year, shop those post-holiday sales to get a jump start on 2010.

• Avoid store mobs. Shop online, through catalogs or with home shopping television channels. You can save time and often money. Just make sure you are shopping with a reputable dealer with an appropriate returns policy.

• Say "no." "No, you can't have an Uzi." "No, I cannot possibly bake a gross of cupcakes tonight." You can't do it all, and you don't have to.

• Beware of Santa. Toddlers tend to fear strange things, like big dogs, clowns and Santa Claus. The photo op may be great for you, but is stressing out your child if he is shrieking at the mere sight of the jolly old elf.

• Keep it simple. If you love to bake, go for it. But if your oven is designed for storage space, toss some store-bought cookies on a pretty plate or add mini-chips to the frozen cookie dough.

• Give the kids some holiday chores. It's their holiday too - let them participate in the mayhem. Have them volunteer or give some of their old toys to charity. Helping out teaches responsibility and values, and helps them to feel good about themselves.

• Don't forget the spouse! Dad's can do more than string lights at holiday time.

• Bring in the reinforcements - friends and neighbors. Holiday plan together over a cup of coffee or tea. Swap ideas and recipes, or better yet, swap tasks. Let the bakers bake and the shoppers shop. You'll save time and have shoulders to cry on when things go wrong.

• Don't forget your basic stress management tools - eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep. You can't beat stress without these.

About Mary Muscari:

Associate professor, Decker School of Nursing; Binghamton University, State University of New York 


Topics areas: parenting, from toddler age and up, especially teens. She has conducted a number of parenting workshops around the country; most popular topics: keeping kids safe from predators ('live' and Internet), bullying, raising nonviolent kids.


Parenting books include:

Everything Book: Raising Adolescent Girls (Moira Mc Carthy with Dr. Mary Muscari) (2008)

Everything Book Raising Adolescent Boys (Robin Weiss with Dr. Mary Muscari) (2008)

Let Kids be Kids: Rescuing Childhood (2006)

Not My Kid 2: Protecting your Kids from the 21 Threats of the 21st Century (2004)

Not My Kid: 21 Steps to Raising a Nonviolent Child (2002)


Last Updated: 9/17/13