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To Parents of Young Children – We Wish You a Merry Holiday Season

December 19th, 2023
By: Jessica Corbeil, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist

The holiday season, with its twinkling lights, cheerful melodies, and festive spirit, often brings with it a sense of warmth and togetherness. I personally get so excited for it that my Christmas tree is up as soon as the last trick-or-treater rings my doorbell. However, for parents of young children, the bustling holiday period can sometimes be accompanied by stress, overwhelming expectations, and a sense of pressure to create a magical experience for their little ones. Juggling family dynamics, seasonal responsibilities, and the quest to make lasting memories can prove challenging. To help parents navigate this demanding yet joyous time, here are some science-backed tools and advice that can foster a harmonious and delightful holiday season for the entire family.

  1. Practicing Gratitude: Encouraging children to express gratitude can enhance their overall well-being. Indeed, research suggests that gratitude is associated with increased happiness (Froh et al., 2014) so during the holiday season, initiate a daily gratitude practice, such as creating a gratitude jar where family members can jot down what they are thankful for. This simple act can instill a sense of appreciation and positivity, fostering a more wholesome holiday experience.
  2. Mindful Gift-Giving: While the exchange of gifts is a common tradition during the holidays, it’s crucial to approach it mindfully. Experiences tend to generate more lasting happiness than material possessions. Encourage children to create handmade gifts or offer the gift of quality time through shared activities, fostering deeper connections and cherished memories. Teaching children the joy of giving and thoughtfulness over materialism can cultivate empathy and emotional intelligence.
  3. Keep Routines and Schedules: Setting realistic expectations and boundaries is vital during the holiday season. With the influx of social gatherings, events, and obligations, it’s crucial to prioritize a sense of predictability for children by trying to keep some things consistent. Research emphasizes the significance of maintaining regular sleep schedules for children’s cognitive and emotional development (Kitsaras et al., 2018). Ensure ample rest by scheduling downtime and prioritizing bedtime routines. It can also be helpful to let children know in advance what the plan for the evening is going to be and allowing them to bring comfort items from home to ease the transitions into new environments.
  4. Prioritizing Family Time: Amidst the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, prioritize quality family time. Engage in activities that promote bonding and shared experiences, such as cooking together, playing games, or embarking on outdoor adventures. Research highlights the significance of strong family bonds in fostering children’s emotional resilience and well-being. This quality time can foster open communication, trust, and a sense of belonging for the whole family.
  5. Managing Expectations: Many holiday traditions can be demanding for adults, let alone young children and depend on them being on their best behavior. Manage expectations by discussing realistic plans and feasible activities, keeping in mind your child’s frustration tolerance. Continue to validate your child’s emotions (e. g., “It can sometimes feel overwhelming greeting these family members we don’t know very well” “You were disappointed to have received this itchy sweater”) and giving them choices to enhance their sense of control (Faber, J., & King, J., 2017).

Navigating the holiday season as a parent can be both enriching and demanding. By incorporating these strategies, parents can cultivate a joyous and harmonious holiday experience for their children. Embracing gratitude, mindfulness, kindness, and genuine connections can foster a meaningful holiday season, creating cherished memories that last a lifetime. As the festive spirit envelops families, may these tools be a helpful guide during a wonderful time of the year.


[1] Faber, J., & King, J. (2017). How to talk so little kids will listen: A survival guide to life with children. Scribner.

[2] Froh, J. J., Bono, G., Fan, J., Emmons, R. A., Henderson, K., Harris, C., … & Wood, A. M. (2014). Nice thinking! An educational intervention that teaches children to think gratefully. School Psychology Review, 43(2), 132-152.

[3] Kitsaras, G., Goodwin, M., Allan, J., Kelly, M. P., & Pretty, I. A. (2018). Bedtime routines child wellbeing & development. BMC public health, 18, 1-12.

About the author

Jessica Corbeil completed her doctoral studies at the University of Montreal and is a psychologist at Connecte Montreal Psychology Group. The team at Connecte loves writing about ways to boost our mental health and bring psychology into our everyday lives. For more helpful tips, check out Connecte’s blogs, podcast, follow @connectepsychology on Instagram or like us on Facebook.