For most children, the holidays are a lot of fun—they get a break from school, and they often get to visit with friends and family. But just as the holidays can create stress for adults, the busyness of the season can also be overwhelming for kids.

“We all hope for a Norman Rockwell-style holiday at our house every year, and often it does not happen. So, it’s normal for everybody’s stress level to go up, because everyone’s so excited,” says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw.

Creating calm amid the chaos
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season means schedules often get off track and routines get disrupted, which can cause anxiety and feelings of unease. Try these tips for creating calm:

  • Plan ahead. Children need some degree of predictability, so discuss holiday plans well in advance.
  • Create downtime. It’s easy to become overscheduled, so plan quiet activities with your kids, like listening to music or reading books.
  • Stick to routines as much as you can. Regularity, when it comes to things like bedtime, is important, so try to keep to your normal schedule, especially when traveling.

“Even if you’re at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and everything is visually different for your young child, if you try to keep the routines, including bath time and story time, the same, you’re going to have a kid who sleeps better,” says Dr. Bradshaw.

Try and set a calm example for your kids to follow. If you allow yourself to get overloaded with obligations, it increases the pressure and tension on your children.

In addition, be sure to uphold and maintain family traditions, even if a parent is absent. Traditions create a grounding effect and let kids know that even though some things have changed, other things remain the same.

“What the kids are going to remember when they grow up is not what you gave them when they were 8; they’re going to remember the time you spent going and cutting the tree or making cookies together. Time spent is so much more valuable to our kids, especially in this day and age,” Dr. Bradshaw says.

The holidays are also a great time to help instill the importance of helping others. As a family, try to find ways to give back, like donating toys to the Toys for Tots campaign or other worthy organizations. Take time to talk with your kids—especially your tweens and teens—about ways to volunteer their time, which can have a significant impact in their life and in their community.