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Coping with family holiday stress

Why are holidays sometimes so stressful? Here’s how you and your family can ride it out together.

Child and male parent or carer walking through a cemetery after a funeral

Holidays can be really stressful

There can be a lot to juggle when it comes to the holidays. As a parent you might be trying to manage:

  • Multiple family get-togethers
  • Having family and guests stay over
  • Buying and planning gifts and meals
  • Changes to the kids' usual routines
  • Your kids' energy levels and moods
  • Splitting time with your kids with an ex-partner


Things may not always go to plan, but trust that you and the family can get through it together.

Take care of yourself when you can

You might have a lot going on, and finding time for yourself is hard.

But even on the busiest days, you can give these suggestions a try:

Excuse yourself, step away for a moment and take some deep breaths

Slow down and take your time. If it’s not urgent, then it can wait

Get up early before the kids and have a quiet cuppa

Organise something fun or relaxing like a long bath or coffee with a friend

Practice mindfulness by focusing on one thing at a time

Practice saying no, so you don’t end up overloaded with things to do

Recognising signs of stress in kids

For some kids, the holidays can be an anxious, upsetting or stressful time. Some kids miss the routine of school or get bored easily.

Here are some signs of stress to look out for:

Frustration and irritability
Difficulties sleeping
Mood changes or crying
Headaches or stomach aches
Less co-operation and more complaints
Wanting more attention

Helping minimise the kids' stress

You might find these suggestions helpful for keeping the kids calm and happy over the holidays:

  • Plan ahead: Try to have a plan for difficult situations (eg. travelling, shopping, family gatherings) and let the kids know what’s happening and what’s expected of them.
  • Be on the same page with your partner or the other parent: It is important for both parents to know what is happening. For separated parents, a co-parenting plan could help you decide how time with the kids will be spent.
  • Stick to routines as best you can: Things will change as holidays approach but having a general routine can help eg. having breakfast together each morning, bath time at the same hour every night.
  • Talk things through: If you notice emotions are high, try to choose a calm time to check in with the kids. Giving them a chance to talk about their feelings helps them feel calm and supported.
  • Plan down time: This goes for both yourself and the kids. Plan some winding down activities, especially if there’s been a lot happening. This might be watching a movie together or reading a book.
  • Bring the focus back to family time: Have some fun with family traditions or create new ones. Holidays are a great opportunity to create some happy family memories.

For more parenting ideas...

There is support available.

If you are a parent or carer, you can contact Parentline in your state or territory for advice and support.

If your kids need extra support, encourage them to call Kids Helpline and talk to a counsellor.

They can contact us today by giving us a call, starting a WebChat or sending us an email.

This content was last reviewed 24/01/2019

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