Have a Happy and Stress-Free Holiday!

How to Make Your Family Holidays Stress-Free (Almost)
by Carole Richards


Parents are busy with work, homework, and children’s activities on a daily basis.  Now, add to these activities, “cram-preparations” for the holidays.  Let’s look at making the magical holiday season more relaxed and more fun for everyone.


Prioritize What Is Most Important

Is it gifts, a fancy dinner, decorations, baking or just a simple holiday?  Or, is the meaning of the holiday to your family most important?


Christmas Presents

Do you sometimes feel that Christmas morning has become a veritable circus?  With too many presents, the fun comes from ripping open the next gift, not what is inside of the package.  Try to buy fewer gifts so the whole family will enjoy and savor each gift.


Open a College Fund

Ask grandma and grandpa to open a 529 plan for your child.  For as little as $25.00, a plan can be opened and the idea of saving for college becomes a topic of conversation and hopefully a goal.  Any individual can put $2,000 into a 529 plan each year and not pay State of Ohio taxes on this amount.  This rule varies from state to state.  You still have to pay Federal taxes.

Back to grandma and grandpa, maybe in addition to the college fund gift, they can send a small package with something for your child to open, but focus on the college fund.  Someday their grandchild will thank them.


Too Many Toys!

Limit your toy gift giving to one or two things.  Who says your child “needs” or appreciates lots and lots of toys?  Children get on sensory overload with too much stuff.  By cutting down the number of gifts, when packages are opened, they become appreciated, savored and enjoyed.


Give a Handmade Gift to a Child

While the parents may be too busy for this, friends and family can make a special gift.  Are you a sewer, crafter, scrapbooker, artist or baker?  Use your talents.

I love to sew for my granddaughter and she LOVES what I make.  At just 2 ½ years, she takes really good care of her handmade clothes.  I made her a princess dress and she hangs it up when she takes it off and never eats in it.  She doesn’t want to ruin her special outfit.



Baking Cookies

Of course homemade cookies are the best, but if you don’t have time to make the dough, buy it from Betty Crocker.  Cut up the dough and let the kids enjoy their favorite part — decorating and eating the cookies.


Gingerbread House

Recently, I was visiting Jo Ann Fabrics (remember I sew) and they had Gingerbread House kits.  Some even were pre-assembled and you only had to decorate the house with the provided decorations.


Have a Family Sing-Along

Play your favorite holiday songs and teach your kids so they can pass them on to their children.  The Chagrin Valley Little Theatre’s Studio Orchestra has a wonderful Christmas Sing-along each year.  This year it is December 22nd and 23rd.


Teach Your Kids to Give a Gift of Themselves

Many children don’t have money.  Ask them to do the dishes, take out the trash or serve you breakfast in bed instead of buying a gift.  One year my children gave me coupons for various things they would do for me.  Another year, my oldest child took me out to lunch and to a museum.  It was one of the best presents I ever received.



Simplify, simplify, simplify.  Too tired to put up ALL the decorations?  Let your children choose which ones are important to them.  And, then let them help put the decorations up with your help as needed.


These ideas are meant to get you thinking about what is most important to you and your family.  Think outside the box, relax and enjoy the holidays.  They really can be stress-free (almost).  I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a very Happy New Year!


Carole Richards is president of North Coast Education Services, president and director of the Academic Fun & Fitness Camp, and author of Richards Learning Systems ®®.  She is a frequent guest on radio and TV.  She can be reached at caroler@northcoasted.com.

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Dave Hoffman