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University of Minnesota Extension

Minimize holiday family stress

Holiday celebrations often evoke childhood memories of family gatherings, eating special foods and receiving gifts. But for adults and parents with financial worries and difficult family relationships, holidays often cause extra stress.

Intentions to honor a holiday with solemn ceremonies or by refraining from ordinary business can be lost in the commercial expectations to indulge in pricey celebrations. Here are some tips for reducing the commercial pressures associated with holidays.

  • Volunteer as a family at a food shelf, food bank or another community organization. Read Volunteering: A learning opportunity for ideas (also in Spanish).
  • If you are planning a get-together, consider making time to share family memories, play games together or read stories aloud.
  • If gifts are part of the holiday celebration, don't let the pressure to give gifts exceed your ability to pay for them! Consider exchanging hand-made gifts like breads, jams, children’s hand-drawn pictures or family photographs. See Holiday spending for tips on keeping your spending in check.
  • If a loved one has passed away, create a ritual to honor that person’s memory and place in the family. Or talk with a trusted friend or counselor and plan for an alternative way to celebrate the holiday.
  • If your family has experienced a recent divorce, separation or custody change, give yourself the freedom and patience to explore new traditions with your new family structure. If you are in a new relationship or newly married, see New families and traditions for ideas on merging and developing new traditions.
  • If a holiday tradition causes you a lot of stress every year, consider dropping it! Some long-held traditions might cause more stress than they are worth. Other traditions might be appreciated more if they occur every other year.

Remember, there are ways to honor special holidays that cut stress and need little or no spending. Discuss upcoming holidays with your loved ones. Make needed changes to help reduce stress and truly celebrate the occasions with your loved ones.

Reviewed by Cari Michaels, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2023

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