Navigating the Holiday Season: Managing Expectations, Prioritizing Self-Care, and Fostering Connection with Your Kids

breaking cycles connected parenting connection conscious parenting cooperative kids family family traditions fostering connection getting kids to cooperate gift giving gift receiving gift tantrums gifts for kids holidays self care take care of family teaching manners unconvential advice Dec 22, 2023

The holiday season is a time of joy, celebration, and family togetherness. However, it can also be a source of stress and exhaustion, especially when it comes to managing children's (and our own) expectations. How do we make the best of this hectic time of year?

We'll explore effective strategies to navigate this festive season, including front-loading expectations, handling negative reactions to gifts, prioritizing your children's needs, fostering connection, and making adjustments to bedtime schedules.

Let's dive into each aspect to ensure a harmonious and memorable holiday for your family.. Front-loading Expectations:

Gifts: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly Tantrums.
Front-loading, or prepping your kids for potential scenarios, is a key strategy in managing their expectations during the gift-giving season. It involves conveying the value of gratitude, regardless of the gift received. Begin by explaining that gifts are thoughtful gestures, and someone has invested time and effort in selecting them. Truthfully, gifts are an act of generosity, not necessity. Encourage your children to express gratitude, emphasizing that saying a simple thank you, regardless of the type of gift you receive, is important. As parents, our role is to release regular expectations and guide our kids toward socially appropriate behavior without controlling their reactions. This takes time and practice - but it's well worth it to help cultivate a long-term practice. 

Dealing with Negative Reactions:
Almost everyone has the memory of receiving those boring socks from aunt so and so.... Understandably, it's not uncommon for children to have negative reactions to gifts, and as parents, our immediate instinct might be to intervene and correct their response. Sometimes, parents can add fuel to the fire when we react negatively to our child's negative reactions. Truthfully, we can get upset, frustrated or even embarrassed by how our children react (especially if they don't express gratitude). However, timing is crucial when it comes to teaching our kids these life-long lessons. Instead of addressing the issue in the heat of the moment, practice this unconventional advice: do nothing. If you've already front-loaded the importance of gratitude, have a private conversation with your child later, when both of you are calm and collected. This approach allows for a more constructive discussion about appropriate reactions and because it's done outside of the "heated" moment, it's most likely to land better.

Taking Care of Your Family = Prioritizing YOUR Self-Care
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can leave parents feeling overwhelmed. To prioritize your children's needs, it's essential to prioritize your own. Consider the oxygen mask analogy—take care of yourself first before assisting others. Plan downtime for both you and your children, interspersed with quality family time. Break the cycle of constant activity and opt for the easy road when possible - maybe you don't host this year, or perhaps you order in instead of cooking! By maintaining balance, you'll create a more enjoyable and stress-free holiday experience for the entire family.

Connecting with Your Kids
Amidst the holiday chaos, it's crucial to remember that children crave connection more than extravagant gifts or experiences. Keep it simple by finding activities that resonate with your child's interests. Whether it's watching their favorite movie, playing a game together, going for a family walk, or preparing a meal as a team, focus on "BEing" rather than "DOing."  I know it may seem like more work at first, however, trust me, the effort pays off in the long run. Authentic connections foster cooperation, strengthen relationships, and enhance communication between parents and children.

Important Considerations for the Holiday Season
Recognize that the holiday season is unique and may require adjustments to regular rules and expectations. Embrace the opportunity to enjoy quality time with your family, making memories that go beyond the routine. Be flexible, and don't hesitate to adapt to the special nature of the season. Once the festivities are over, gradually transition back to your usual routines as a family.

Adjusting Bedtime Schedules
As the holidays often disrupt regular bedtime schedules, it's essential to make a smooth transition back to routine, especially before school resumes. Begin the adjustment a few days before the return to school, acclimatizing your child to their regular bedtime in manageable blocks. Consider your child's individual needs, be prepared to say no to certain events, and approach the process with compassion and understanding. Also, you may re-consider scheduling after-school activities on the first day back to allow for a smoother reentry into the school routine.


Navigating the holiday season with children involves a delicate balance of managing expectations, prioritizing self-care, fostering connections, and making necessary adjustments. By implementing these strategies, you can create a harmonious and memorable experience for your family during this festive time of year. Embrace the unique moments, savor the connections, and make lasting memories that will carry your family into a joyous new year.

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Learn more about how you can build resilience, emotional agility, and conscious awareness within your family, and bring ease and joy into your home.

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