Is your family stressed out by the holidays? Here are some tips for keeping everybody happy (or, at least, happier)

· Nov. 22, 2023, 4:00 am
211209-HOLIDAY-LIGHTS211209-HOLIDAY-LIGHTSHart Van Denburg/CPR News
The Christmas tree outside Denver’s Union Station, Dec. 9, 2021.

‘Tis the season. But before there’s any Silent Night there are weeks of high expectations, packed schedules, strained finances and frayed tempers.

Denver's Craig Knippenberg, a family therapist and author of “Shame-Free Parenting: Building Resiliency in Times of Hardship, Guns, and Social Media,” has ideas for maintaining calm amid the chaos.


Create and keep family traditions. They’re fun, they’re familiar and they bring back happy memories.

Set expectations (and a budget) for gifts. Let the kids know how much you plan to spend — maybe that pays for a couple of big presents, or several small ones. You can splurge and indulge their whims sometimes — but be careful.

“You take them to some event, you take them to the mall and every kid’s thinking ‘I want that. I want that one too, yeah, I want that one too,’" Knippenberg said. "They will tap out your wallet in a heartbeat.”

Think a little less about Santa. “It's about the relationships in your family, not just the magic of the big guy who will just shower them with everything,” Knippenberg said.

Stress the family gift exchange and let the little ones participate too.

Keep them 'tucked in their beds.' "Keep regular sleep schedules as much as you can,” Knippenberg said. “Sleep is very important to children.”

Stick to (most of) your routines. “Anytime there’s a big change in structure for children they struggle behaviorally,” Knippenberg said.

Make room for fun but keep the family’s everyday life as normal as possible.

Parents need time too. Children may be on vacation but parents are busy this time of year. Let the kids know they’re going to have to entertain themselves at times and then engage with them on holiday activities. And — back to that structure thing — let the kids know what the schedule is.

“Even though it’s a different structure, you’re trying to provide some guidelines for them,” Knippenberg said.

You care.

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