Busy Parents’ Guide to Enjoying the Holidays

Two beautiful caucasian ethnicity and african-american ethnicity women sitting at coffee shop talking friendly while drinking and eating desserts , using their phones vector illustration on pink background

If you’ve got kids, you’re busy. It just comes with the parenting territory these days. Add in the holiday flood of decorating, shopping, extra school events, plus the pressure to start or keep family traditions, and the hap-happiest time of year can quickly become the most overwhelming. 


Before you follow the way of Scrooge and sideline yourself from the merrymaking, read this advice from Dr. Whitney Casares, a board-certified pediatrician and founder of Modern Mamas Club, an interactive app that provides parents with daily tips and tools to prevent burnout and reduce stress. If you adjust your mindset and follow these steps (even if just a few), there will be less stress and more joy ahead. 


First, forget expectations 

You know those perfectly dressed, twinkly-eyed kids you’ve seen on holiday cards? Not the goal here. “Get over the idea of a grandiose holiday,” says Dr. Whitney. “Kids don’t ask for perfection, but many parents have unrealistic expectations of themselves.” Instead of focusing on a crazy amount of expensive toys and pure happiness, put the emphasis on being together. It’s often in the unexpected moments that parents –and kids!–find the real cheer. 


Plan the good stuff 

“Kids want to spend time with their parents, but many parents are working parents and the idea of adding more to their plate during an already busy week is stressful,” says Dr. Whitney. The solve? Decide what events or activities are most important to you and your family (think gingerbread house building, latke making, etc.) so it’s planned into your week. “Just remember you don’t actually have to do it all,” she adds. Prioritize one special to-do per week to avoid feeling overscheduled. 


Stay organized (you just gotta) 

With all that’s coming in and out of your home, a daily sweep of your space is extra necessary. Aside from routine dirt removal, opening deliveries and stashing gifts in a centralized spot can save mega sanity, not to mention money when it’s gift wrap time (nobody wants to rebuy a special something!). “It’s also super important for parents to keep their schedules decluttered,” says Dr. Whitney. When you accept an invite or plan a family activity, schedule it in your calendar and set reminders (plural) so you’re not scrambling. There’s nothing fun about trying to find a gift to donate to the school toy drive last minute or forgetting to buy a secret santa gift for your coworker. 


Keep making those lists 

Writing things down is a great way to cut down on the mental load. Put shopping and to-dos in a shared spot (like on the counter or notes app) and you’re more likely to get help or input from your family. Dr. Whitney also recommends Ideal vs Reality Lists, which can help put things into perspective. “You might have to sacrifice the “idea” of something in order to make room for the things that actually matter, “ she says. Writing it all down can help you see the reality of what’s in front of you.


Set boundaries–and stick to them!

This is the part where we give you permission to say no to events or activities, or to pare back on your own plans each week. It’s not fun or healthy to be stressed, plus it can have a negative effect on kids. “Instead of unrealistic expectations, which is not the greatest model for our children,” says Dr. Whitney, “try to have mindful self-compassion and remember that some stress is inevitable.”


Go on, indulge yourself 

When stress bubbles up, be proactive. Take me-time as part of your own self-care routine, advises Dr. Whitney. “This can include doing something you love, relaxing and being intentionally unproductive, or getting together with a friend for coffee.” When you’re less stressed, you have more patience, so do it for yourself and for the kid that sneaks an extra cookie when you’re not looking.