During the holiday season, our schedules ramp up. With everything from holiday parties to Christmas concerts and gift shopping (and wrapping!) to community events, it’s hard to find a moment of peace—especially if you have children.

Here are some tips for staying sane this holiday season—and the good news is that you can use them all year long to decrease your stress!

  • Limit your commitments. It would be nice if you could do it all, but chances are, doing it all will make you crazy! Along with your family, sit down and choose a handful of activities to attend. Politely decline the rest—your friends will understand.
  • Clarify expectations. Before going to (or hosting) any events, talk with your entire family about everyone’s expectations. You may want to explain how you want your children to behave, and as a family, you may want to come up with an “exit strategy” and a time to leave or end the party (for example, you might tell your kids you’ll give them a 10-minute warning before it’s time to go, and then a five-minute warning, and that you expect them to come peacefully when it’s time to get in the car). Disappointment (and less-than-ideal behavior) usually happens when someone’s expectations aren’t met.
  • Create or maintain traditions. Traditions don’t have to be fancy or extravagant. No matter how big or small, they provide a sense of meaning, belonging, and fun for everyone in the family. Whether your tradition is watching a holiday movie together, baking special treats, or driving around to look at holiday lights, enjoy the family time.
  • Give back. Science shows that acts of kindness benefit the giver and the receiver. So whether you and your family decide to volunteer, shop for a family in need, or bake cookies and deliver them to first responders or a retirement village, consider how you can spread the love.
  • Embrace your network. Offer help and be willing to receive it, too. Take a turn watching a friend’s kids while she runs errands, and let her return the favor. Invite a family over for a low-key pizza night, so you can get some adult time and your kids can play.
  • Let go of perfectionism. As all parents know, kids are the antithesis to the best laid plans. Starting right now, shift your expectations—realize that things probably won’t go according to plan, and commit to rolling with the changes. It’ll do you good.

Although this may be the busiest time of the year, that doesn’t mean it has to be stressful. With the right mindset in place, you can take control of the upcoming months—and actually enjoy them.

Editor’s Note: look for the Strong Families, Happy Kids column in every issue of Prescott Woman Magazine. It’s designed to support parents with actionable tips and strategies they can use to create optimal environments for their children to thrive. To learn more about Prevent Child Abuse Arizona’s mission and resources visit www.pcaaz.org