Simplifying the Holidays When You Have Kids

Simplifying the Holidays When You Have Kids

Ah, the holiday season – a time for joy, celebration, and the warmth of family togetherness. But let’s be honest, it can also be a season of chaos and stress, especially for parents with young children. Juggling school activities, work, extracurriculars, family, and holiday preparations can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. But don’t fret! Simplifying the holidays with kids is not only possible, but it can also lead to unforgettable moments and cherished traditions.

I’m here to share some heartwarming tips and strategies for parents to make the holiday season more enjoyable and less frantic. I started this list as a way to help me feel less stressed this upcoming season, and I thought I would share it with you. By simplifying your approach, you can focus on what truly matters – creating wonderful memories with your children and fostering the spirit of togetherness.

Join me on this journey if you, too, want to impart some of these simplifying tasks to your kiddos so they, too, can find peace and joy during this season and not be overwhelmed with all of the gifts, parties, and expectations.

A person holding up a "Help" sign with thier head down

Set Realistic Expectations

The first step in simplifying your holiday season is to set realistic expectations. Remember, the holidays don’t have to be perfect. It’s easy to get caught up in all the bright, fun looking activities on social media, but it’s important to remember that those moments are rarely perfect, even though they look like it in photos and videos. 

Let go of the idea that everything has to be picture-perfect. Kids value quality time and fun experiences more than extravagant gifts or decorations. 

Family spending quality time near the fireplace wearing Santa hats and Christmas attire.

Create Simple Traditions

Simplify your holiday traditions by choosing a few that your children genuinely love. Whether it’s baking cookies, watching classic holiday movies, or crafting ornaments, pick activities that can turn into cherished family traditions. It’s the simple moments that create lasting memories.

In the past, I’ve easily gotten caught up in signing up for Christmas festivals, which I’ve quickly realized are very overwhelming for everyone in our family. Finding parking, navigating the crowds, and entertaining the kiddos can feel like a lot. So, I’ve decided to forgo this tradition for the future and focus on the simple things that bring us all joy.

Now, I’ve been keeping it simple: A store-bought gingerbread house with all the frosting and candy needed. A holiday box shipped to us with prepared holiday activities. Sitting and watching a Christmas movie in our matching pajamas.

Four presents wrapped in tissue paper on a table

Embrace the Art of Minimalism

In today’s world, the holiday season has become synonymous with extravagant gift-giving. But consider adopting a more minimalist approach to gifts. Instead of an overload of presents, focus on thoughtful gifts your children will cherish. Remember, it’s about quality, not quantity or cost.

Each year, I follow the gift-giving mantra “something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.” Besides one gift from Santa, we only give them those four gifts. This makes shopping for, hiding, and wrapping gifts very simple. 

A December calendar at the center of the table with Christmas themed hat and golves

Plan Ahead

Planning ahead can work wonders in reducing holiday stress. Create a to-do list, set a budget, and start your holiday shopping early to avoid that last-minute frenzy. Here is a budget spreadsheet I’ve been using to help control shopping and budgeting during the holiday season. 

Additionally, plan your holiday events and activities in advance so you can enjoy them without feeling overwhelmed. You can then pick and choose which activities are the most important instead of piling on events and overscheduling the family.

Children wrapping presents for parents

Delegate and Share Responsibilities

Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks and responsibilities. As a mom, it’s easy for me to just do all the things, because I know the details: what activities to do, where to be for certain events, when to start wrapping gifts, who we need to get together with. But, it’s not fun when I am the only one in charge of these things. 

Whether it’s decorating the house or preparing a holiday meal, involve your partner to help out with things. Don’t forget to include children in age-appropriate ways. They can help set the table, wrap gifts, or decorate the tree, and this fosters a sense of togetherness that’s truly heartwarming.

Mother and daughter playing with puppy

Focus on Presence, Not Presents

It’s easy to get caught up in the material side of the holidays, but remember that children value your presence more than any present. Spend quality time with your kids, engage in activities, and make the most of the holiday season by connecting with them on a deeper, more heartwarming level.

Did you know that 20-30 minutes of uninterrupted time with kiddos has been proven to be more effective than multitasking during one on one time? I’ve always noticed better behavior from my kiddos and improved independent problem solving when I spend at least 30 minutes with them uninterrupted. The quality of time I spend with them has proven to be more important than the quantity.

"Thank you" card and a present

Encourage Gratitude

While I’ve been working on this one from the time they could talk, it’s an important value that continues to be taught in our home. Teach your children the true meaning of gratitude. Help them understand that the holiday season isn’t just about receiving gifts, but also about being thankful for what they have. 

Consider starting a gratitude journal where you can all share what you’re thankful for each day. Last year, we started a new tradition where each night at dinner, each person names three things they are thankful for. This also helped me understand what motivates my kiddos and gives me an opportunity to show how I am thankful for them.

Gift Excel sheet

Organize Gift-Giving

If you have a large extended family, organizing gift-giving can simplify the process. Consider drawing names for a Secret Santa exchange or setting a gift price limit. I think this year, we may start doing a secret Santa exchange among our kiddos and their cousins. Which will cut down on spending and the number of things our kids get from our families. This ensures that the focus remains on heartfelt gestures rather than extravagant presents.

As I wrote about earlier, I also keep a spreadsheet for gift giving so that I can keep track of who is getting what and how much I am spending. After implementing this spreadsheet last year, I had much more peace about what we were giving as gifts and how much money we were spending. It opened my eyes to how many gifts we actually buy for family, friends, and community members.

Children coloring Christmas pictures

Limit Extracurricular Activities

During the holiday season, it’s common for children to have various extracurricular commitments. While these activities are important, remember to prioritize family time. You don’t have to attend every holiday event or party. Choose the ones that warm your hearts the most. 

One of my favorite ways to spend the evenings after dinner is to walk or drive around looking at decorations. This gives us an opportunity to be social at our own pace. We also try to limit activities to one per day. As an introvert, I get super overwhelmed by a lot of social gatherings. So for me to show up as a good mom, I need to give myself the space to recuperate after socializing. Which means, we limit the frequency of activities during the holidays.

Christmas themed cookies

Embrace Imperfection

Lastly, embrace the beauty of imperfection during the holiday season. Not everything will go exactly as planned, and that’s perfectly fine. One of my favorite phrases is, “make room for the unexpected.” It’s often the unexpected moments that become the most heartwarming and cherished memories. 

By making room for the unexpected moments, we can learn to embrace the ups and downs that come along with the holiday season. The feels of joy and grief that may hit us when we least expect it.

Simplifying the holiday season with kids is all about focusing on what truly matters – creating unforgettable experiences and spending quality time together as a loving family. By setting realistic expectations, creating simple traditions, embracing minimalism, planning ahead, and prioritizing presence over presents, you can make the holiday season a time of warmth, love, and cherished moments for both you and your children.

Keep in mind that the holiday season is a time for love, togetherness, and gratitude. By simplifying your approach, you can ensure that your children’s memories of the holidays are filled with heartwarming moments, love, and cherished memories that will last a lifetime.

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