10 Holiday Stress Tips for Parents

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, supposedly, but it can be the most stressful too. That’s why we’ve found the best holiday stress tips for parents to help you keep your holiday cheer.

For parents, the holiday season can be exhausting. There is just so much to do. On top of the usual tasks of caring for small people, there’s also decorating, baking, buying gifts, and so much more that all goes into making the magic happen.

10 Holiday stress tips for parents for a stress free Christmas The pressure on parents to create the perfect Christmas is intense. 

Parenting is already stressful, but the holidays bring so many additional stressors.

From overpacked schedules, high expectations, and financial constraints there are so many ways the holidays increase our stress levels.

Here are ways to help lower your stress and hopefully enjoy the holidays with your kids!

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Our Top 10 Holiday Stress Tips For Parents:

Start Early

Feeling rushed to get everything ready is always going to be stressful. By starting early, you can try to avoid the last minute panic.

How early you start is up to you. I’ve been known to start my Christmas shopping in January, but I know that’s not for everyone.

December is a busy month so doing anything you can before will definitely help.

From shopping for gifts to ordering Christmas cards and freezing cookie dough. Anything you can accomplish before the holiday season hits is one less thing you’ll have to worry about later.

holiday stress tips get organized

Get Organized

Having a solid organization system for the holidays can save you lots of time, headaches, and stress. 

Figure out how you want to keep track of your to-do list and your gift purchases. 

This is especially vital if you shop early like I do and then have to hide these gifts away for months. You might even forget what you bought or where you hid it. Yes, this has happened to me.

I’ve tried many different ways of organizing Christmas, like lists, binders, and apps to keep track, but what works best for me is a google spreadsheet. I can open it on my phone anywhere and keep track of all of my Christmas related things like to-do lists and gifts. 

This record keeping is also how I attempt to ensure I have gifts of approximately equal quality, quantity, and cost for 3 kids. I’m exhausted just thinking about it, but the spreadsheet makes it easier.

Also, I now have a box specifically where I accumulate gifts as I buy them instead of just stashing them here and there. If a gift must be hidden elsewhere, that gets marked in the spreadsheet.

My organization isn’t perfect and I tweak it some every year. The trick is finding a system that will work for you.

holiday stress tips get organized

Stay On Budget

Financial strain can make the holidays especially stressful, but overspending is only going to increase your stress well into the new year.

Make a budget for your holiday purchases and stick to it. 

One way to help with budgeting is to put a little bit aside every month through the year. This gives you some extra wiggle room in December. How much you can afford to put aside is totally dependent on your family budget and financial situation.

I am a big fan of budgets. Even when the budget is tight, I find it much less stressful to know exactly how much I can afford to spend and just how creative I’ve got to get with the gifts.

holiday stress tips get organized

Trim Your To-Do List

You can’t do everything, but you can drive yourself nuts trying.

The stress you feel is a pretty normal reaction to having way too much to do. This time of year our to-do lists can get totally out of hand.

Make your holiday tasks more manageable and less stressful by trimming down your list.

Prioritize And Simplify

With so many things going on, it can be easy to lose sight of which are important. 

Take a moment to actually consider your holiday tasks and whether or not they are really important to you and your family. 

Which ones bring you joy? Which ones are important traditions?

Which ones could you scale back?

Which ones could you skip?

Pick the top few things that absolutely must happen and make sure they get priority status. Maybe it’s a family dinner, a certain gift for your child, a family tradition, or whatever brings your family the most joy during the holidays. 

Then consider the remaining items on your list. Since they aren’t priorities, decide whether they can be skipped or simplified.

Look for things you could simplify to make them more manageable. For instance, a smaller Christmas tree, simpler holiday meal, or fewer gifts.

Decorating the house with young kids can be a pain, maybe cut back on the decor to save time and possibly your sanity. We discuss the pros and cons of decorating with toddlers here.

Decreasing the number of gifts you have to buy can save both time and money. Less gifts doesn’t have to equal less fun, here are some great ideas for celebrating Christmas without toys.

Finally, cross off the things that you feel ok skipping this year. Is it the end of the world if you don’t get the outdoor lights up? Will store bought cookies be enough to save you hours of baking?

Stressed around holidays

Say No

The holidays are busy and your time is limited so give yourself permission to say no. 

This goes hand in hand with maintaining your priorities, but deserves its own point because it can be so so so difficult.

The holidays can be an especially hard time to say no. There can be tons of pressure from family and friends to attend every party, bring gifts, prepare food, and just suck up all your time and energy. 

Keep your priorities in mind and don’t cave in on the things that you don’t want to do. Whether it’s big like not traveling for the holidays or small like skipping the neighborhood cookie exchange, let yourself say no.

Imperfect Christmas

Lower The Bar

Repeat after me, “It doesn’t have to be perfect.”

We often fall into this trap of trying to make the perfect Christmas for our kids. Since this is totally unattainable, we’ll always fail no matter how much time and effort we dump into this endeavor.

Take the pressure off and embrace the imperfections. Accept that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be good enough.

If your house isn’t magazine worthy, the tree was decorated by your toddler, or the cookies are a Pinterest fail, it’s ok. 

What to do with an old Christmas tree

Keep Your Focus

Don’t lose sight of what’s most important.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in everything, the events, the gifts, the holiday cheer. We get distracted from the one thing that truly matters the most to us.

Whether it’s a religious aspect, spending time with loved ones, or your child’s joy, make sure you maintain your perspective in it.

So when the stress is mounting and things are going wrong, bring yourself back to focus on this one most important thing.

Holiday stress tips ask for help

Ask For Help

Recruit help when you need it. You aren’t Santa and even he has an Army of elves helping him.

Can your partner take something off your plate? Older children can be exceptional helpers with decorating and baking. Grandparents may be thrilled to lend a hand to create some Christmas magic.

Difficult as it may be to admit you need assistance, you may find family and friends are happy to chip in especially when everyone is feeling generous around the holidays.

relax and take care of yourself

Do Something For You

When you’re overwhelmed with way too much to do, it’s easy for parents to neglect themselves.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself. 

I know, you don’t have the extra time. I get it. BUT the thing is, we’re usually better parents if we’re not completely stressed out. So make the time, you need to be a priority too.

Whether it’s a daily workout, quiet cup of coffee, meditation, or watching a Christmas movie, do the thing that makes you happy.

have fun on Christmas

Have Fun

It should go without saying, but don’t forget to have fun. 

The holidays should be fun, and not just for the kids. Unfortunately when we’re so busy trying to create the magic for everyone else, we can forget to have some fun ourselves.

Have fun with your kids. Don’t forget to enjoy this time with them.

Snuggle with a hot cocoa, read a fun Christmas book (here are my favorites), sing carols at the top of your lungs, or watch one of your favorite Christmas movies (these are the best for families).

How do you deal with holiday stress? Do you have any tips for the rest of us? Please share your holiday stress tips in the comments!

10 Holiday stress tips for parents for a stress free Christmas

About Author


Hey, I’m Rachel.

I have three awesome sons and an amazing husband. I left my professional career to be a stay-at-home-mom and love it. Since then I spend most of my time chasing my wild boys and trying to keep the house from looking like a complete disaster.

Occasionally, I get to read a cheesy romance novel, attempt crafty things, or binge Netflix. But when I’m not doing that, you can find me here trying to help you figure out the easiest ways to feed your family, live on one income, or make some of the millions of decisions moms tackle every day.

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