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The holidays are here and as much as we try to prepare in the months leading up to them, no one is ever truly ready once this joyous time arrives. From the holiday shopping to sending out the cards in time and trying to decide how to strategically visit all of your family in your time off, the holidays can become stressful for everyone, including your children.

According to experts at The Genius of Play, playtime can be used as a powerful stress reliever for both kids and adults. It also provides the opportunity to strengthen the parent-child bond and helps communicate to kids that they are important when the busy holidays take over.

I spoke with Dr. Erik Fisher, psychologist and emotional dynamics expert, who explained that creating memories through family traditions for the holidays are a great way to help ease the stress of this time of year.

“Traditions are often anticipated and promote structure, consistency and comfort. Traditions don’t involve endless planning and sometimes traditions arise by accident and can surprise us that they were so enjoyable, so we repeat them again and again,” notes Dr. Fisher.

Cutting down a Christmas tree together and decorating the house; creating art, crafts and even holiday cards; playing games or cooking meals together—the strength of these memories evokes a sense of comfort and happiness. The amount of money spent on tradition doesn’t have to be much and developing traditions can help you survive the holidays.

So, what are YOUR family traditions that make you look forward to the holidays? If you haven’t created any yet, following are a few ideas from Dr. Fisher:

  1. Set aside time to develop a family schedule for the holidays and include the kids in setting up the schedule. As they say, failing to plan is planning to fail.
  2. Make sure you plan for everyone, no matter the age. Let each person in the family identify something (within reason) that they would like to do over the break and put it in the schedule. Building a gingerbread house together, going to a place or movie, having a friend or family over…
  3. Give a “second life” to last year’s Christmas presents. Break out last year’s toys, games and gifts and reignite play with them. Make a few afternoons or evenings of play and get involved with your kids in play. If the kids enjoy the “revival experience,” their play may give you a little time to get a few more things done. I am sure the land of misfit toys will thank you with a few less refugees.
  4. Do you have a story or holiday movie(s) that can become part of your holiday traditions? One year we had neighbors over for The Polar Express and made laminated tickets for the kids that said “Believe” on the back with a little bell attached.
  5. Create time to share “appreciation moments” for each member of the family. Too many times, holidays feel stressful and we forget what the reason for the season is. Let’s bring it back to the importance of love, sharing and time together. That may be the greatest gift we can offer.

And most importantly, remember to be in the moment and appreciate the season. Don’t feel like you have to survive the holidays. See how you can thrive in the holidays!