The Holidays - Your Family Holiday Survival Guide

Give yourself and your family the true gifts of the season. Take time to enjoy each other, the magic, the spirituality, the lights, the music, the joy of giving, the decorations, the smells, the tastes.

Establish your family’s priorities. Have a meeting and explore what the season means to each of you. Discuss the best and worst of the holidays. Clarify each family member’s dreams and wishes. Come up with goals, and keep them in focus when deciding what to do over the holidays.

Below are some helpful tips for surviving the holidays with your kids.


  • Keep your social obligations simple. Decide together what events are important to attend and why. List all family obligations first, then work, friends, and community. Pencil them on the calendar and decide which ones you can let go.

  • Keep outings, errands or visits including the children to a maximum of one per day only. Less is even better: aim for two to three per week.

  • Set up a hand signal for any member to use when they need a break, a moment of one on one time, or when they have had enough and are ready to go. Help each other whenever you see the signal.

  • Remember that the children will express the repressed emotions of the adults around them AND act them out. Pay attention to them and leave when they act up.


  • Decide which family gatherings you REALLY want to attend. Avoid overbooking.

  • Have either Xmas Eve or Xmas morning at your home with just the immediate family.

  • Rotate which extended family will host the Big Events. Sign up for shared set up, cooking and clean up duties so that each family member, young and old, has something to do to help.

  • Agree on safe topics and what you will do when unsafe ones are introduced. Since you can’t make the extended family follow these guidelines, decide what you and your immediate family will do.

  • Be proactive: Plan to take your children aside at least every hour or two and read a book or play a simple game. This will go a long way to keeping them grounded.

  • Inform your family ahead of time that you will be leaving when the children have had enough.

  • Prep your children ahead of time for all contingencies. Play “What will we do when......” Role play how to act in public. Let them know that they are more important to you then anyone else and that they can trust you to help whenever needed.

  • Debrief after the event to process everyone’s feelings, thoughts and experiences.

  • Implement a plan to travel on vacation with only the immediate family every other year.

  • Consider going on an extended family trip to a tropical paradise in lieu of gifts or the regular holiday fare.

  • Do a white elephant gift exchange for teens and adults. Have younger children draw names to exchange one gift with a set small price limit.


Establish a family ritual of giving one gift per night for a set number of nights, as in the Chanukah tradition. For example observe the gift exchange from Christmas Eve until New Years Eve. Create a ceremony: Light candles, say prayers, sing songs. Pass them out and open one at a time. As the gift is exchanged express gratitude.

Decide that Santa brings only one gift on Christmas morning and/or the stocking.

Ask Grandparents to buy one gift only per child. Offer choices from a catalog.

Help children clear out old toys and gently used clothing to donate to those less fortunate.

Adopt a needy family and supply their Christmas, from gifts to the feast. This can be a great extended family project.

Have the children make gifts for their Grandparents, teachers and a few close friends.


Each child packs and carries a backpack of activities and snacks.

Pack additional surprise snacks and dollar store items to pull out when desperate.

Listen to books on tape appropriate for the entire family.

Take frequent breaks to run and play.

Travel during sleep/nap time.


Follow the tips for festivities and extended families.

Schedule some outings for everyone and some for the immediate family only to give everyone a break.

Limit your visit to two to three days there.


Have your children help to prepare the guest quarters.

Plan one meal to make for your guests as a family.

Once your guests are settled in have a meeting to plan outings (together and as separate families) and meals.

Clarify everyone’s expectations. Set and Implement Goals.

Schedule regular play together and alone times. Being together all day is too much for everyone.

Play games, watch movies, read holiday books aloud.

May you all have a joyous season!