The holidays can be joyful and magical…and sometimes they can also be stressful and anxiety-inducing, especially when gathering with extended family. Staying calm while traveling and dealing with inlaws while wishing your kids would just sit still for a minute can be hard!

But there’s relief in a surprising place: new research from Chatbooks shows that simple printed photos are an excellent tool for reducing stress and anxiety for both kids and parents. Here’s how you can use photos to make your holidays a little easier and more joyful: 

Show your child family photos before you go.

It can be super overwhelming for kids to walk into a room of people who seem to know them, but your kids have no idea who they are. I have 11 siblings and 49 nieces and nephews—that’s a lot of people for my kids to remember! One thing that helps my children feel more confident and comfortable is looking at pictures and telling stories about these relatives ahead of time. Research shows that 91% of parents find that printed photos help their kids remember people and details. Plus, 86% of parents report that photos help their kids have more childhood memories, meaning looking at photos from Christmases past helps kids better remember the holidays in the long term. 

Pack a photo book as a distraction.

Our family often travels during the holidays and I know how stressful it can be with lots of little wiggly ones on a crowded plane. A photo book is the perfect screen-free (and tray-table-free) activity to keep kids distracted while you climb to 30,000 feet. 84% of parents report that when they look at photos with their kids, it sparks telling other stories, meaning this activity can also keep kids engaged—and not kicking the seat in front of them!

Use a photo book as an icebreaker.

Conversation veering dangerously close to political disagreements, or not sure what to say to your cousin’s new wife? In every family there is bound to be an awkward moment–but my favorite way to break any tension is to throw together a highlight book of favorite photos from the past year and walk through it together. Nearly 80% of adults agree that looking at printed photos tends to be a shared experience and 76% agree photos allow them to connect with their family in ways that they wouldn’t normally—family members can’t help but peek over your shoulders and join in the reminiscing conversations. And it’s much healthier than avoiding conversation by revisiting the dessert table… again.

Remind yourself you are an awesome parent.

I’m a fairly confident mother, but I’ve felt the sting from what seems like disapproving glances over my kids’ screen time, sugar consumption, or their choice of outfits. That’s when I take a deep breath and look at a favorite photo of our family—physical proof that I am an awesome mom! 68% of parents report that just the simple act of looking at a photo of their family makes them feel like they’re doing a good job as a parent. And research proves the more you feel like a great parent, the less anxious you feel. So keep a pic of you and your crew extra close in case of emergencies!