A Parent’s Holiday Survival Guide

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” 


At least that’s what they say.

A family of four together in a field of pine trees

As the Holidays approach, this all too classic phrase is all but pushed down our throats. We hear it suavely sung over the radio, see it stitched on pillows and printed on festive wall art. 

If we’re being honest as parents, the “magic” of the holiday season is equally laced with stress, frustration and exhaustion. Family pressure is at an all-time high, grief is amplified, there’s never enough money and you just can’t please everybody. The joy we’re sold through Hallmark movies, Christmas stories and jubilant carols is often a reminder of the warm feeling we’re not experiencing: and you may be wondering, “what’s wrong with me?” “Why am I feeling stressed when I should be feeling the opposite?” 

You are joining a community of parents who experience the same stress come the Holidays. And what’s the answer? To survive. Now, this feels wrong to say. You should feel great! Experience wonder with your kids! Watch your family bond and enjoy every moment of it!

Easier said than done. As much as it contradicts what we’ve been told, it’s okay to acknowledge the difficulty of the Holiday season. And it’s okay if your goal is to survive. In fact, the work we often do with parents around this time is not to “fix” their survival techniques but to accept them.

A family sitting around a dinner table around the holidays.

If you need permission to simply survive the holidays, take a few minutes to answer the questions below:

What is stressing me out this holiday season?

Example: I’m stressed about having enough time to work, take time for myself, while also entertaining my kids 24/7 when they’re on school break.




How do I respond to these stressors?

Example: I know I shouldn’t but during the holidays, I usually let my kids spend more time in front of the screen. When I need to focus at work, I let them play on their iPads during the day and by the end of the day I’m usually so tired, we end up watching a movie most nights. It might make me a terrible mom but it’s the only thing that helps.



This is a narrative many parents tell themselves: “I’m doing what I need to to survive and I’m a bad parent for it.”

So what if, instead of focusing on changing our actions, we change the narrative?

Ask yourself this: Why do I feel the way I do?

Example: I have a lot on my plate! And having the kids home only adds stress to an already stretched bandwidth. I want to enjoy the extra time with them but can’t when I’m so stressed.


Two kids reading a book together on a couch next to a Christmas tree

Now ask yourself: What do I need (or want) to do to honor what I’m feeling?

Example: I want to enjoy quality time with my family but can’t do so when I’m stressed by everything on my plate. Increasing screen time for my kids every once in awhile actually reduces my stress. And we enjoy watching a movie at night! Maybe it’s okay to be flexible on the rules in order to take care of my mental health.


Hopefully asking these questions honestly gives you permission to show yourself self-compassion during an already stressful time of year. When you feel guilty for how you react to the holiday stress, take space to be kind to yourself. And remember, you’re doing the best you can! Showing up to the best of your ability is enough.

Nobody has a perfect holiday season. Our team at Decade2Connect supports parents with managing expectations and is available to you and your family during this busy season. Don’t hesitate to connect with us if you need support.

Even if it isn’t the most wonderful time of the year, we hope it is a time sprinkled with wonderful moments.

Our Intensive Outpatient Program is in-network with United!