1 in 5 parents believe their child has unrealistic expectations for the holiday season, while 1 in 4 parents feel they have unrealistic expectations of themselves (C.S. MCHN Poll on Children’s Health).
The excitement of the holidays is all around us. But with the joys of the season also comes added stress for families. Child- and family-serving professionals can support parents and caregivers in managing holiday stress and accessing concrete support and services that address the family’s needs and minimize challenges. By connecting clients to the right resources, you can help ensure families enjoy the magic of the season!
This time of year is also increasingly stressful for child- and family-serving professionals. As you juggle caring for the emotional and physical well-being of your clients plus your stressors, it’s especially important to take care of yourself to avoid burnout. In this blog post, CalTrin provides resources available to help parents and caregivers manage their stress as well as information on organizations that provide assistance to families who may need a little extra help fulfilling their child’s holiday wishes. We also have included stress management resources for child- and family-serving professionals.
Managing Holiday Stress: Resources for Parents and Caregivers
While the holiday season brings feelings of joy and togetherness, this time of year is also a major source of stress for parents and caregivers. In fact, a C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health found that 1 in 6 parents report higher stress levels during the holidays, with 1 in 5 acknowledging that their stress negatively impacts their child’s enjoyment of the season.
This graphic illustrates common holiday stressors for parents and caregivers, which can range from striving to fulfill wishes while juggling the expectations of children and other family members; budgeting household finances; experiencing grief or loss; making time for holiday traditions (sugar cookies!); shopping for gifts; seasonal school events, long breaks, and disruption to routines; attending holiday social gatherings; traveling to see family; and more.
Child- and family-serving professionals can use the below resources to help parents and caregivers who may be struggling with managing expectations and stress this holiday season.
American Psychological Association:
Child Development Institute: Start Reducing Holiday Stress Now
Child Mind Institute:
C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health: ‘Tis the season to be…stressed?
EmpoweringParents.com: Holiday Stress: How to Keep Calm and Avoid Fighting With Your Kids
Green Child Magazine: “Gimme, Gimme” How to Manage Your Child’s Expectations for Christmas
The Krazy Coupon Lady: 23 Free (or Cheap) Family Christmas Traditions
Mental Health America: Hope for the Holidays
Mayo Clinic: Stress, Depression and the Holidays: Tips for Coping
National Alliance on Mental Illness: Tips for Managing the Holiday Blues (Infographic)
Nationwide Children’s Hospital On Our Sleeves®: Tips to Prevent Holiday Stress for Children (and Parents)
National Child Traumatic Stress Network:
Prevent Child Abuse America: Dealing with Holiday Stress
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What About Families Involved in the Child Welfare System?
For families involved in child welfare system, the holidays can be a confusing time. Youth living in foster care may feel especially vulnerable, lonely, and sad at a time when they are expected to feel exactly the opposite. The following resources can be used by child welfare professionals, parents, and caregivers to help youth navigate their emotions during the holidays.
Children First FFA: Managing Holiday Emotions & Stress
Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition: The Holidays in Foster Care: Why Things Might Get Rough
Kids in Transition to School: (KITS): Helping Children in Foster Care to Manage Holiday Stress and Emotions
Holiday Assistance Programs for Families
For parents and caregivers who may need a little extra help fulfilling their child’s holiday wishes, the following state and national resources are a great place to start:
California WIC Association: Holiday Help, Resources, and Activities
The California WIC Association’s WIC Can Help provides resources on programs that families can consider for additional help so that the holiday season can be about spending quality time together and creating positive memories. Learn more.
Thanksgiving & Christmas Assistance in California
iCalifornia Food Stamps is the leading website solely dedicated to helping individuals and families in California maximize their food stamp benefits. See the list of Free Turkeys & Thanksgiving Dinners available in cities near you. iCalifornia also publishes an annual Christmas Guide that provides information for families seeking assistance with holiday meals, Christmas trees, and gifts for children. Look for the updated 2023 Guide to be published here.
USPS Operation Santa
The United States Postal Service has been making letters to Santa written by children in need available to the public to “adopt” every year, for over 100 years. Get information on writing letters to Santa here and how to adopt a child’s letter here.
Be An Elf’s Seeking Gifts
This charity adopts letters submitted through the USPS Operation Santa campaign as well as offers tips for parents who are struggling financially and are seeking help with Christmas. Be An Elf also offers a guide to the program for companies, as a team building Company Christmas Charity.
Toys for Tots
The Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program collects new unwrapped toys and distributes those toys to less fortunate children at Christmas. To request toys, find your local Toys for Tots campaign here.
The Salvation Army Angel Tree
The Salvation Army Angel Tree program, in partnership with Walmart, provides new clothing and toys to children in need each year. Get application information and search local programs here.
United Way partners with local organizations in cities across the country to provide free holiday meals and Christmas toys to low-income families. Parents and caregivers can contact United Way’s 2-1-1 Service to find holiday assistance in their area.
Managing Holiday Stress: Resources for Providers
Research shows that between 40% and 85% of “helping professionals” develop vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue, and/or high rates of traumatic symptoms (Mathieu, 2012). Between juggling personal stressors and caring for the emotional and physical well-being of clients, it’s especially important to take care of yourself to avoid burnout this holiday season and beyond. Discover resources to address secondary traumatic stress, compassion fatigue, and burnout in CalTrin’s blog post, Resources for Prevention and Intervention of Secondary Traumatic Stress.
In addition to the resources shared above, the following are specifically geared towards professionals:
Corporate Wellness Magazine.com: Addressing Holiday Stress and its Impact at Work
National Association of Social Workers-California: A Social Worker’s Guide To Surviving The Holidays — 2020 Edition
National Child Welfare Workforce Institute: Self-Care Resource Round-Up
The New Social Worker: Holiday Topics
Spring Health: A Therapist’s Guide for Surviving Holiday Stress