Deep love, overwhelm, perfectionism, anxiety, and exhaustion sum up being a highly sensitive person and a parent. Then add in the stressors of the holiday season, and you have overwhelm on another level. Our intention as a parent to create a special holiday for our family can often lead to exhaustion.

If you watch the Hallmark Channel or many of the holiday movies like I do, you feel the pressure to have the perfect holiday. You wake up in the morning to a warm house, the smell of pine, and winter weather outside. The entire family is sitting with smiling faces, ready to open gifts. Is this a dream? Of course, it is. Those holidays aren’t real. So, maybe we should change the expectations into something reflecting reality.

5 Tips for Sensitive Parents to Overcome Expectation:

  1. Mindset – It’s the expectations that are slipping you up. If you make up your mind that you’re not going to have a good time, then that is probably what will happen. Instead, focus on what the holidays mean to you. Is it being with the ones you love or giving back to those less fortunate? Whatever you want to create for the holidays with your family, focus on that emotion and the outcome.
  2. Do the Math – I am not talking about how much money you are spending (but that is important too) but how much time you must spend with everyone so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. Time is valuable. Each day has only 24 hours—nobody has any more than anyone else. So, plan out your schedule. If you are traveling to multiple locations, figure out how long to stay and what time to leave. Also, factor in downtime between or after. As a sensitive person, our downtime is important. When we don’t have our downtime, we can feel physically and emotionally tired. If your schedule looks too overwhelming, make changes. Which parts of your schedule can be shortened or eliminated? Is that trip necessary? Make wise decisions now and save yourself stress later.
  3. Preventive Communication – Before things start getting chaotic, talk about what you want, what you expect, and what you are hoping for during the holidays. Express yourself! And encourage your family to express their thoughts as well. Find out what they want from their holiday experience and figure out how you can help them have a great holiday season. Keep in mind the age of your children when they are expressing their ideas. Allow a space for everyone to voice their thoughts and be heard. Then, as a family, chose a few of the top activities that feel good to everyone.
  4. Feel Your Feelings – Give yourself permission to feel whatever you’re feeling. Sometimes, the holidays spark sadness or anger or other emotions that we think we shouldn’t feel. Create a safe space to release those feelings without judgment. This could be with a friend, spouse, family member, or writing in a journal.
  5. Gracefully Back Away – Rather than get in an argument, back away and set up a boundary. This can be challenging as a sensitive person as we are often people pleasers and don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. To protect your energy and emotions, you need to practice saying “no” without guilt. If we don’t, we can easily end up overwhelmed, resentful, codependent, and the list goes on. You deserve to spend your time the way it feels best to you. When you need to say “no,” you can be firm and kind. Avoid giving a reason for why you can’t or don’t want to do something. No is enough, so respect your “no” without feeling guilty. Here are some examples of what to say: “I’m sorry, but it’s not going to work for me.” “Unfortunately, that’s just not something I can do right now.” “It sounds fun, but I won’t be available that day.”

Many people never accept the unpleasant parts of the holiday. You dream the holidays will be different than the one you experience. Have you allowed yourself to enjoy the one you are going to have? It is okay if things don’t go as planned. Be gentle with yourself.

I have a 19-year-old and a 13-year-old, and they can’t remember most of the gifts they received. What they do remember are our family traditions and being in the moment with their family.

So, take a breath and enjoy this holiday season and release expectations.

If you are looking for additional support I am offering a FREE webinar on December 17th at 7pm CT. To find our more or to register go HERE!

I welcome you to join a supportive online community for sensitive mamas; Empath Mama Community on Facebook.


  • Heather Nardi


    Empath Mama and FemCity

    Heather Nardi is an author and speaker certified as a Holistic Life Coach. Also, a mama to 2 children ages 13 and 19, married to Mario for 20 years. Heather is the Founder of Empath Mama, a community that provides loving guidance and support for mamas, who are sensitive souls (Empath and/or Highly Sensitive Person). The mission of Empath Mama is to offer loving guidance and wisdom through our community and education, so YOU feel empowered in your true essence. Heather is the President of her local FemCity Collective. FemCity is a Members-Only Organization for female business owners, infused with gratitude, positivity, purpose & soul. As an introverted, sensitive, entrepreneur Heather has challenged herself to emerge in the area of networking.