Baylor College of Medicine News

Holidays should focus on family time, traditions

Every parent worries about being able to provide for their child, and the holiday season can elevate these concerns. Taking the focus away from shopping and presents and putting it on family time can be the key to a successful holiday season, according to an expert at Baylor College of Medicine.

Talk about financial concerns

"It's good for parents to try to communicate openly with their kids, so talk to your children about financial concerns you might have during the holidays," said Dr. Christina Treece, assistant professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at BCM.

Children are sensitive to parents' concerns, so Treece recommends that the conversation also include a reassurance that the family will get through tough times.

Treece suggests taking the focus away from shopping and putting it on other activities and traditions to celebrate the holiday season.

Identify what's important

"Your time and your attention are the most important things you can give your children," Treece says.

Create holiday traditions such as watching a favorite holiday movie, cooking special holiday foods, decorating and listening to favorite holiday songs to make the season festive without breaking the bank, Treece suggests.

Establish realistic expectations

It's normal for kids to want things, but parents should remember that it's not possible to give your children everything they want. This is true year-round, not just during the holidays, Treece says.

Be clear when something is out of financial reach, she advises.

"It can be something as simple as 'I'm sorry, I wish I could get this for you, but I can't this year,'" Treece said.

When it comes to temper tantrums, she suggests ignoring them until the child cools down enough to talk, and trying to prevent conflicts by avoiding big shopping trips together.

Stress management is key during the holidays, and realizing that having the "perfect" holiday is an unrealistic expectation can help reduce the stress. "Spending time together is what's most important," said Treece.