Four-year-old Grayson Riley and his 2-year-old sister, Madeline, love the holidays, from the trees to the stockings to the Elf on the Shelf. Their mom, Lindsey, loves the holidays, too, but she admits that the busyness can be stressful.

“I think the key is to be flexible and be forgiving to yourself,” Lindsey says. “You want to do it all and sometimes that’s not possible. That’s just life, especially life with two little ones and the fact that I am a full-time working mom.”

Pediatrician Dr. Pilar Bradshaw says it’s common for families to get overwhelmed during the holiday season, trying to do so much in such a short amount of time.

“You have all these conflicting emotions, things you remember from your childhood that you want to reenact with your children. There’s a lot of stress around schedules, busyness, lack of sleep and often around travel,” she says.

Dr. Bradshaw says maintaining family traditions or starting new ones is a great way to keep the reason for the season in perspective. Traditions are a great way to bond, as a family, and they not only provide stability to kids, but also wonderful memories. The Riley family visits a tree farm every year to cut their own Christmas trees.

Here are ways to add calm to the chaos that often comes with the holidays:

  • Plan ahead. Let your child know in advance when specific things will happen. Having a plan and keeping kids in the loop is a huge stress reliever for them.
  • Stick to routines, as much as possible. Regularity is comforting to children, so when it comes to things like naps, baths and bedtime, try to keep your normal schedule, especially when traveling.
  • Give back. The holidays are a great time to instill in kids the importance of helping others. As a family, find ways to donate toys or other needed items, or volunteer your time to support a nonprofit in the community.
  • Create downtime. Taking even a 15-30 minute break can give parents a breather and help kids recharge, decreasing the likelihood of a meltdown.

When schedules get busy, Lindsey makes it a point to take a time-out, not only for herself, but also for her children.

“Sometimes, we just sit together and read books, or watch a Hallmark movie or the classic Rudolph and Frosty movies. It’s important to take time with our kids to just relax and enjoy our time together.”

Focus on what matters most, even if that means everything on your to-do list doesn’t get done. It’s the time spent together and the memories that you make as a family during the holidays that matter most in the long run.

“Have conversations with your kids about why the things you do as a family at the holidays are so important. That’s going to be much more meaningful to your child as they grow up, rather than just another toy under the tree.”

For additional tips on reducing holiday stress for you and your kids, click here.