Easing the pressure for families over the school holidays and festive season

19 December 2017

Belinda, Child & Family Counsellor, Cora Barclay Centre The end of year can strike joy or fear into the hearts of parents and caregivers (and often does a little of both). The festive period usually brings with it extra considerations: public holidays and chaotic shopping trips, extra spending, lots of food and drink, breaks from school, childcare or work routines, heightened expectations, extra socialising and all this before mentioning 40 degree days! 

Cultural celebrations are also often a time of families coming together and reconnecting. This can be a wonderful thing. For some families however, these occasions can result in family tensions, disagreement over child rearing and parental expectations, and less chance for parents to have time out to refresh and have ‘down time’ for themselves.

In short, the festive season holidays are often a heady mix for families, marked by changes in routine. Some families adapt well to this whilst others experience the instability in a less positive way.

Here are some steps that may help assist your family to deal positively with the upcoming holiday period:

Keep some routine

It’s important to understand that even good changes cause instability. If you’re holidaying away from home, taking time off work or socialising lots more, try to keep some routine where you can. This can be done in simple ways; consider limiting late nights if your child struggles with them, understand the need for children and adults alike to take time out from busy or non-stop gatherings and try to keep meal and snack times somewhat consistent where you can. Keeping some of your usual routine may also include the expectation of kids helping with household chores each day. Routines and rituals can be boring but do help provide structure and a feeling of control in our day.

Understand that adults are not the only ones who can feel pressured over these holidays

Depending on their age kids are often adjusting to this sudden loss of household routine, social opportunity and the stimulation they receive at childcare, kindy or school. It’s okay to drop expectations a little and pick your battles wisely. Whenever you can, aim to be bigger, stronger, wiser and kinder. Bear in mind that too many presents / lollies / big social occasions may be difficult for your child to manage depending on their developmental level, temperament and other considerations. Younger kids can’t tell you this so their behaviour will show you when they are feeling out of control.

Take time out as a couple (if you are part of one) or as an individual, or both

If you struggle to get these opportunities and are full time carers for your child/ren negotiate to take an afternoon out each or plan for some one-to-one time once the kids are in bed. Alternately, try to organise some time where your child will be safely entertained for a period of time whilst you do whatever it is that relaxes and replenishes you. It can take practice to organise this and feel the benefits of ‘me’ or ‘us’ time, but make an effort to connect with yourself and each other if you’re a couple – these are often lost in the churn of busy family life.

Put some boundaries in place

It’s okay to say no to invitations if you or your child are feeling overwhelmed and equally it’s okay to request help such as asking people to bring items or food to share at get-togethers. Just because things have happened a certain way in the past (“but we always bring the dessert!”), this does not mean that arrangements can’t change with the times depending on the needs of your family.

What works for one family may not work for another

Family Enjoying Christmas

All families differ from one another. With social media so prevalent, it’s easy to feel like you are not doing enough / giving enough / happy enough / trying hard enough. Kids generally remember experiences (such as spending time with you) rather than things. Try to enjoy time together and build in some fun (think pyjama days, picnics under the table, a trip to the pool or beach, board games or puzzles for older kids). Each family has their own ‘culture’ – embrace this and make it your own! What others choose to show you or describe are just select snapshots of their lives, so it’s unfair to yourself to compare yourself and your family to others.

Communicate expectations

Each person in the family needs to understand what will be happening and what is expected of them during these important times. Communicating expectations helps family members feel in control of what will happen and how they should be contributing. This also lessens the chance of arguments when things don’t go according to plan.

Repair, repair, repair

Father and Daughter Cuddle with AntlersWith hot weather and added festive season pressure it’s highly likely that tempers will flare and tears or tantrums will hit at some stage. Holiday times can bring challenges for kids and adults alike as everyone adjusts to instability in routines and expectations. It’s important through this to acknowledge that family members are loved and accepted for the individuals they are, despite any difficult behaviours or moods. You can remind you child of this by quiet hugs, setting aside some time to sit with or read to them, or simply by telling them they are loved and appreciated. If your negative comments are starting to outweigh the positives when it comes to your kids, take a deep breath and try to start afresh.

Child & Family Counsellor, Cora Barclay Centre 


For all our clients, never forget that Belinda is available to support your family with any issues you may have. Just call the Centre and make an appointment to have a chat. 


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