Magazine article USA TODAY

Squeezing Stress from the Season

Magazine article USA TODAY

Squeezing Stress from the Season

Article excerpt

If you have kids, it is quite possible the holidays will cause more stress than actual holiday cheer. Sure you love seeing their faces light up when they open their gifts, but the weeks prior to that special day can be exhausting. The major holiday stress culprits?--going from store to store with the entire family in tow; the seemingly infinite parties; the sweet treats you fear will give your kids a buzz until February; and the mountain of toys, gadgets, and clothes that will be piled up in your house when Christmas is over. Feeling tense just thinking about it?

"This is probably one of the busiest times of the year for people with children," notes Virginia Bentz, author of Quick Guide to Good Kids. "People get so caught up in trying to make this a special time for the kids that they can sometimes overdo it. Cut back on some of those activities and gifts. You'll actually be able to enjoy the time with your children, and they will be happier without a jam packed schedule."


If managing your offspring-related holiday stress sounds like a great way to celebrate the season, there are a number of ways to get started. For babies and toddlers, less is more. They can handle only so much that is "new and exciting" without a meltdown. So if they will not sit on Santa's lap or give that cherubic smile to Uncle Mel, just accept it. Sometimes, you might have to leave events earlier than planned. Consider bringing a babysitter along to attend activities with older kids, and let common sense prevail over your rose-colored vision of what the holidays should be.

"I'm always surprised at how many parents sit their screaming child on Santa's lap in the hopes of getting an adorable picture," relates Bentz. "The holidays can be as overwhelming for smaller children as they are for you. Know when it's time to throw in the towel. Instead of forcing your children into something you think they will enjoy, let them choose what activities are right for them."

Prepare just two or three carefully chosen gifts for those little ones. Do not break the bank buying out the "baby" section of the toy store. Very small children do not need--or want--a lot of stuff. For older kids, limit yourself to four or five gifts per child. This is enough to make an exciting display around the tree. Also, when it is time to open gifts, take it one at a time. Your children will enjoy not just opening their own presents, but also watching their family members open theirs. Half the fun of the holidays for your kids is seeing their siblings ooh and aah over what they picked out for them. Remember, too, that other relatives will give your children presents. "We've all seen our kids open a gift, express supreme joy in receiving it with an 'Oh, cool!' and then toss it aside to move on to the next gift," relays Bentz. "By giving your kids fewer gifts, the items you do give them will be more special and more appreciated."

Give your children presents that help them develop their special interests and talents. If you are not sure exactly what they are into these days, just ask. What could be a better opportunity for open communication? "You may be surprised to find that your son or daughter doesn't want that pricey toy you feared would break your budget," advises Bentz. …

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