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Holidays - A Time of Joys and Challenges

by the Staff of the Child Study Center

Holidays are a time of joy and celebration, but for many they can be a source of stress and anxiety. Family gatherings at holiday times may not fit the picture usually seen on a holiday greeting card. These times can be particularly difficult when a family experiences the loss or absence of a loved one. But there are steps that families can take to make the holidays less stressful and more meaningful.

Planning can make a difference.

Plan ahead about how you are going to celebrate the holidays and include your children in the planning. Think about the things the family wants to do the same and which might be better to do differently. This can help you decide the best way to remember someone who is away.

Do not compensate for stress and loss with additional material gifts.

In fact, it can be helpful for your children to plan ways that they can give to others. Most children feel better when they are able to do something for others. It raises self-esteem and provides a sense of purpose and mastery. It also puts things in perspective; they are able to see what they do have instead of what they don’t.


When you are planning your holiday, remember to include some downtime. Don’t be rigid in your scheduling; be flexible about last minute changes.

More on Making Holidays Joyous

This series of articles (listed on the right) presents advice on how to strengthen family ties, including families with children with special needs. The articles also deal with common concerns such as traveling with kids, planning gifts, and healthy eating as well as common stresses such as divorce and the holidays and the meaning of holidays for bereaved children and families.

Aim for more joy – and less stress!