A holiday season survival guide for parents

Are you wondering how to keep your tween and teenage kids engaged over Christmas without them (or you) turning into the Grinch?


Maybe you’re considering how to entice them out of their room to come down and share in the family festivities and Brussels sprouts.

When they were younger, it was easy to keep them happy over this time. Elves on shelves, advent calendars, nativity plays and carols kept them occupied. When they hit their teen years, it can feel harder to keep them engaged in family life at the best of times, let alone over the Christmas holidays.

The holiday season can be fantastic, but the reality is that it is a hectic time and the overall stress can leave room for conflict.

What can you do to help them?

  • Let them have their own space – let’s face it, we all need space for ourselves, especially when so much is going on. Remember that they still need you around, even though it doesn’t always feel like it!
  • Aim for quality over quantity of time together – make the most of the time you are together. When you’re acting as their personal chauffeur, trips in the car can be great times to catch up and chat, for example.
  • Pick your battles – they’re growing and developing and their moods are still roller-coasting. You are still going to cop the occasional overreaction; try not to take it to heart but recognise that it’s just part of their developmental stage.
  • Make the most of this time to let them know how much you love and value them. You could even write it on a card for them. It might not look like they pay it much notice at the time, but it gives them something to look back on to feel cherished and appreciated.

What can you do to make it easier on yourself?

  • Be aware of how you are feeling. Recognising when you are feeling stressed makes it easier to be aware when conflicts are brewing. Then you can make a conscious decision to not engage.
  • Think before you speak to ensure you don't inadvertently add to this stress or conflict. If you find yourself getting a little bit snappy, or feeling your stress levels rise, stop for a moment and give yourself a bit of a break.
  • Make sure that you are looking after yourself. Your family want you to get through this season in one piece and actually enjoy yourself.
  • Get organised beforehand – write lists when you think of what needs to be done and remember that it's OK to delegate. Speak with other family members to help work out what you can do to help each other.

When therapy might help

When you find pressures, stress or conflict really playing on your mind and you find it difficult to shake off or walk away from. If you feel it's impacting your mental health, leaving you feeling anxious or depressed. When you're thinking about it at night and it’s impacting your sleep and well-being then it might be a good time to speak with a therapist.

We can explore how you’re feeling together, helping you sort things out in your mind and process what’s been going on. You may recognise that there are some issues being brought up from your childhood and past family issues which are also impacting how you feel and act now.

We’ll work through these together and find coping strategies that will work for you, helping you to manage how you’re feeling and to look after yourself.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Seaford, East Sussex, BN25
Written by Jennifer Warwick, MSc Psych, BACP Registered | Counsellor and Parenting Expert
Seaford, East Sussex, BN25

I am a BACP registered counsellor working online. I work with people who struggle to balance work, home and family life. People who are constantly rushing, looking after others over themselves and are exhausted as a result. I specialise in relationships, family issues and parenting teens and tweens. Contact me for an introductory chat by phone.

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