The holiday season can be even more fun for families when parents consciously work to lessen stress and focus themselves and their children on building loving relationships. Here are just a few ways to make December merry and bright:

Embrace family rituals. Family rituals are emotionally meaningful and convey the message, “This is who we are; this is what it means to be part of this family” (Fiese 2002). Rituals — such as dedicating a day to prepare your family’s favorite meal — foster a sense of belonging and identity. We invite you to learn more about the importance of family rituals here.

Consider a few things before taking your young child shopping. The key to enjoying a shopping excursion is to be a proactive parent, not a reactive one. Ask yourself, “Does he consistently show the knowledge, skills, judgment and self-control to behave in the market?” If he doesn’t, then taking him to the store is a setup for failure. Leave him with your partner, shop while he is at school, or get a babysitter. After all, advertisers understand that if you want to sell a product, you must catch the eye of the consumer. Keen marketing minds have created an environment that encourages impulse buying — especially during the holidays. These are not the places for children who are easily overstimulated and demanding.

Seek calm. Parents are often stressed around the holidays. Add to this an overly aroused child, and it is not a pretty scene. For holidays in general, it is best to keep gifts to a minimum. Ask family and friends to tone it down and to help you keep the celebration simple and low-key. Base what you do on what you think your child can handle — and create family observances that are appropriate for his or her emotional needs. Learn more about how to be a calm parent here.

Communicate to deepen relationships. The best gifts we give are often just our time and attention. You can learn more about ways to strengthen your communication with your child here.

  • Focus on the positive by acknowledging your child’s unique talents and strengths. “I love the way you sing!”
  • Offer encouragement. Expressing your confidence in his ability to succeed will help him have hope and greater self-confidence.
  • Take pleasure. Regardless of how small, express joy in your child’s accomplishments. Let your child know you enjoy her company. Develop common interests. Find a way to have fun together.