Patrick Ball @PatrickBall

recovering journalist. content and strategy at writing about policies, problems and benefits affecting working families.

A Working Parent’s Guide to Surviving the Holiday Break

Follow's tips to surviving holiday break

It’s just about 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 22. The second hand inches forward, the minutes creep by. Your office is half-empty, your co-workers easily distracted. It’s all you can do to shuffle through the mish-mash of projects on your plate. Because your mind is elsewhere.

It’s on your kids. Your half-finished shopping lists. The family you’ll be hosting or the houses you’ll be hopping. It’s on school vacation weeks, and the plans you still haven’t made.

For many busy, working families, the holiday break can feel less like a vacation and more like a blizzard of activities, excitement, parties, errands and stress. With that in mind, here are a few tips and tricks to help your family survive the holiday break.

1. Outsource Stressors When You Can
According to a member poll, 64 percent of employed members say their stress level increases during the holidays. And 68 percent admit they’re feeling overwhelmed during the holiday season.  So, how can you manage the stress? By outsourcing some of the stressors! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

2. Try to Unplug 
A major complaint among respondents of the member survey was that work interferes with family time during the holidays. 62 percent of respondents said they’re unhappy with the amount of time off their company provides during the holiday. But, even more than that, many admit to doing work while they’re out of the office. Here’s a by-the-numbers look: 

  • 41 percent check email or voicemail daily
  • 40 percent check email or voicemail several times daily
  • 20 percent say they work so much during the holidays it’s like a regular work week

Try to unplug from work while you’re off during the holidays. It’ll help you focus on enjoying time with your family.

3. Keep Tabs on Tips, Gifts and Everything Else You're Spending Money On 
Most wonderful time of the year? More like most expensive … for many families anyway. From gift-giving to holiday tipping, many of us are practically hemorrhaging during the holidays. Not to say we mind, necessarily. ‘Tis better to give than receive, after all.  Here are a few resources to help sort out some of your holiday spending. 

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Scale Back 
If you think about it, a lot our holiday season stress is self-inflicted. It’s pressure we put on ourselves to provide an A+ holiday for our families. Katie Bugbee,’s Senior Managing Editor and Parenting Expert, had this realization last year.  Give her “9 Ways to Have a B+ Holiday” a read and see where you can scale back.

5. Plan to Be Crafty
School vacation weeks mean you’re going to have to find ways to keep the kids busy. Sure, there will be presents and new toys to play with, and probably activities with friends. But you’ll want to plan ahead for those in-case-of-emergency circumstances, like when boredom or bad weather strike. Here are a few ideas: 

6. Treat Yo’ Self 
You’ve stayed home with the kids for quite New Year’s celebrations in the past, but this year you want to do something a little more exciting. Follow’s tips for How to Hire a Sitter for New Year’s Eve and treat yourselves to a well-deserved night out. 

7. Just Enjoy the Magic 
Yes it’s crazy. Yes you’re busy. And yes you’re stressed out. Katie Bugbee, our managing editor and parenting expert here at, planned ahead and so she can take things slowly and enjoy the holidays this year. … and it’s working. “Slowing down and putting less pressure on myself to make things perfect has helped me stop and enjoy the small, sweet moments that usually fly by,” she writes. If you need a little magic, check out Katie’s list of 32 Totally Free Magical Holiday Moments to Stop and Enjoy Right Now

Happy Holidays from all of us at