“Happy Holidays!”
“Merry Christmas!”
“Happy Hanukkah!”

We are expected to be happy, merry, and joyful during the holidays. Yet for many families, the expectations this time of year can cause great stress and anxiety – not just for you as an adult, but for your children, too.

It is important to remember as you rush around trying to create the perfect holiday home, buy the perfect gifts for everyone, and create the perfect holiday meal, that your children are watching. And, if you turn the holidays into a stressful production, that is how your children will view the holidays as well. Children reflect, model, and take their cues from their parents.

On the other hand, this is the perfect opportunity for you as the parent to model for your children what this time is really about: bonding, togetherness, giving, and making memories.

Remember: the holidays are one of the few times in the year that the whole world conspires to love.

During this time, watch your children for typical signs of stress, which may include:

  • Wetting the bed, and other forms of returning to regressive childhood
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Changes in grades and school behavior
  • Crankiness, because they’re too tired from rushing about from place to place

A healthy way to move past feelings of stress, depression, and sadness is to use that energy in a positive and constructive manner. By focusing on others, you teach your children how to activate their altruistic sense of compassion and goodwill. Acting on these feelings through random acts of kindness, you and your children can reduce stress and replace it with the warm glow of satisfaction.

My top tips for making the holidays less stressful:

  • Simplify your life: make your To-Do list, but then cut out anything that is not absolutely necessary and find shortcuts with meals and other holiday preparations.
  • Only accept personal holiday invitations that you are honestly excited to attend. Politely decline the rest.
  • Remember to make time to de-stress: take a quite warm bath with candlelight and aromatherapy as a time out gift to yourself.
  • Take your children to volunteer at a shelter together as a family.
  • Gather old coats, blankets, food and donate them to families in need.
  • With your children, make personalized gifts for friends and relatives with the recipients in mind. For example, if Aunt Sally likes the seashore, draw her a picture of the seashore.
  • Talk with family elders about the way in which they celebrated the holidays in their youth. Life is a collection of memories, and children love to hear the happy and fun experiences that make up the moments of their family history.

The memories you make with your children are really what life is about, and your relationships with others are the key to those memories. By simplifying your life and managing expectations during this time of the year, you can focus on what is really important: family, community, compassion, and togetherness.

By taking the focus off of the hustle and bustle and the commercialism of the holidays, we help reduce the stress in our lives, and in turn, help our children learn to enjoy a stress-free holiday season that is full of meaning and memories.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at EmpowHER.com since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Amazon.com. Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.