Publishing this post just a few days before the biggest holiday week of the year might feel like perfect timing. Or it may feel as though your family (like many of us) finds itself so caught up in the craziness of school programs, work parties and endless to-do lists that you won’t even have time to sit down and read a blog post, let alone check out the links we provide below. But we’re making a special request to parents: please take a moment to do so.

The holidays are a mixed bag: families have the opportunity to spend extra time together, share traditions and celebrate special cultural and religious events. But they can also max out our already busy schedules and make us feel like we’re never doing quite enough to make it special for those we love. Holidays can also be just plain painful if they remind us of financial difficulties, strained relationships or the loss of loved ones.

Nevertheless, here we are. This year, why not gift yourself the time and tips to keep the focus on your family (rather than the gifts or party invitations or endless other things it can turn into)? Click here for fact sheets on Holiday Stress, Family Stress and Helping Children Manage Stress. And then, take just a few minutes to consider trying one of these tips this year:

1. Ask your kids how they feel about the holidays. Are they over-tired? Stressed? Have they had a chance to spend a quiet night at home with you recently?

2. Set family priorities. If you talk about options together (baking Christmas cookies at home vs. attending a large party, for example) you can make decisions together. And your kids’ answers might surprise you!

3. See the opportunity in front of you! Many children are home from school and parents take time off from work over the next two weeks. Try and plan one or two special, family-focused events to enjoy together. Even just a mid-day walk around your neighborhood or cooking a meal together can be a nice break from the fast-paced routine of daily life.

4. Give a gift with lasting value. Sure, you’ve probably already purchased the latest video game or toy for your child. But why not write them an end-of-year letter about why you love them and how they’ve made you proud over the past year? Enclose an old photo or two and read it together during a quiet moment at home.

Remember: no family is perfect. Neither are the holidays. Do what you can to make your time together full of meaning, not stress. Your kids will thank you for that some day.

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