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Challenge: Reducing Holiday Stress

Don't try to keep up — do it your way!

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Sometime around early September each year, the first twinges of anxiety start creeping in as I walk into home decor stores and notice that, right alongside all the lovely fall decorations, Christmas decorations are already on the shelves! Don’t get me wrong, it also excites me a little, but there is something about the Christmas season that can send even the most laid-back, go-with-the-flow person into a perfectionistic frenzy.

As the holidays draw closer, all the magazines and TV shows start talking about the latest trends and the current year’s holiday colors (I always thought they were green and red but apparently not). Stores also start reminding you not to forget about your little elf friend and Pinterest explodes with all the latest and greatest DIY projects.

It’s all so overwhelming that I finally had to sit down and decide what I can personally handle that won’t stress me out and what my kids actually, truly like when it comes to holiday decorating and activities.

Below are the things that I observed that has really helped reduce my holiday stress as a parent:

1. We don’t do the Elf on the Shelf: I’m just gonna start right off with this one, and I know it’s not popular at all, but we DON’T do the Elf on the Shelf. Gasp! We never have. With four kids, I knew from the very beginning that I was too sleep-deprived and swamped cleaning up messy floors and poopy diapers to be able to move that guy around every single night, let alone come up with some creative setup. For goodness sake, I can’t even remember that I left my coffee in the microwave all day after attempting to reheat it for the third time.

Yes, my kids have asked why we don’t have one and my simple answer was because they are good children who do not need an elf to report back to Santa on their behavior. They’re already on the “nice” list.

Now, I’m not trying to say that families who do the elf have naughty children. Trust me, mine are certainly no angels, but it was the best answer I could come up with, they were satisfied with the response, and so I’ve stuck with it. And, it’s worked. So... if you want to someday break this tradition (or avoid starting it in the first place), you could always tell your children that they are now already on the “nice” list and the elf didn’t need to come this year. Just a thought.

2. Don’t let FOMO run your life: Oh my goodness! Between all the school sponsored holiday activities, concerts, and parties (for all 4 of my kids); not to mention all the December birthday parties (of which my oldest daughter is one), it feels like there’s never a spare moment to just relax. And now, have you noticed? Facebook has this lovely feature that tells you about all the upcoming nearby events.

This is great but it certainly has a way of stirring up a fear that we’re somehow going to miss the best parade or light show in the state if we don’t go. I finally had to stop “planning to go” to all these events.

We pick one per week and that’s it (if we even do that many). Guess what? My kids don’t care, especially if I didn’t even tell them the event was happening. I realized it was my own anxiety driving this FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) train and trying to see and do everything holiday related. My kids are content to see Santa once. Any more than that and they become a little suspicious.

3. Remember that there's no need for perfection: Unless you are an interior decorator, plan on having Southern Living photograph your decor, or are hosting a Tour of Homes, there’s really no reason to go over the top with Christmas decorating (unless you just absolutely love it). While I LOVE looking at homes decorated for Christmas, doing it myself is a bit stressful at times. I want it to look like a gorgeous winter wonderland straight out of a magazine, but it just doesn’t. And, while I might be disappointed that it doesn’t look perfect, my kids aren’t!

They love every single, somewhat tacky, decoration I put up. And, to be honest, I think their favorite Christmas decoration is our $4 vinyl, Walmart tablecloth. They literally all gasped with joy when I put it on our table. Who knew?


Our $4 vinyl Walmart tablecloth that the kids love!

The other thing they love? The instant decor holiday wall art, again from Walmart. It’s actually pretty great because, as a military family, we’re constantly moving and regularly have to figure out how to make everything fit in a new, and very different space. I sometimes spend a lot of money on decorations that later don’t fit well in the new house. So, these wall stickers are perfect! They can come down after the holiday, pack up really small, and they were cheap… and unbreakable (which is another thing that happens in a move. Lots of stuff gets broken).



Guess what else? When it comes to driving around looking at Christmas lights, my kids love the ones that look like a T-shirt cannon fired the lights onto the trees and house, just as much as the meticulously measured and aligned lights. They love it all! So, no need to be overly perfectionistic when hanging our own outdoor lights. They’re just thrilled that we did it!

4. Let the kids decorate! Every year, I get it in my head that we’re going to do a fancy, color-coordinated, straight-out-of-a-magazine tree but it never happens. My kids are still young enough that they enjoy decorating the tree the way they want to. This year, I realized just how truly special that is and that it won’t be like that forever.

Letting them decorate the tree how they want to actually brought the most joy of all to my heart. They even made their own ornaments and hung them on the tree with such pride that it brought a tear to my eye.


Couldn't tell you what this is but my 5-year-old was so proud of herself!

I find myself regularly looking at our tree and admiring its beauty because it was my children who decorated it this year…all by themselves. That is more beautiful to me, as a parent, than anything else I could have done to it.


So, what can I pass on to you? If you find that FOMO, or keeping up with what everyone around you is doing for the holidays, is the driving force behind your own holiday season, I challenge you to take a step back and observe what really brings joy to you and your children. It’s surprisingly simple and sweet! Let your own family decide what makes your holiday decorating beautiful not everyone else!

Happy Holidays!

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