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8 Tips for Surviving Holiday Planning -- With Kids

Stop stressing about getting everything done quickly. Involve your kids in your holiday to-do list and make it a fun-filled family chore.

The holidays can be both the most wonderful time of the year -- and the most stressful. And when kids are involved, trying to balance family life with holiday preparations adds a new element of challenge. Fortunately, it is possible to enjoy the season and all it brings. Here are eight tips to help.

>Find extra holiday help to keep your spirits bright this season. 

And for more helpful tips, check out Care.com's Guide to Managing Stress.

  1. Make a List
    "Managing time is the single biggest stress reliever when it comes to handling added pressure," says Alicia Clark, a licensed clinical psychologist. Start your holiday planning well in advance of the season by making a list of everything that you'd like to accomplish.
  2. Create a Plan of Attack
    But just making that list isn't enough. "Translate that list into action," suggests Andrew Mellen, organizing expert and author of "Unstuff Your Life!" "A list is a step in a process."

    "Determine which tasks can be done with your children's help, and which need your full child-less attention. Take advantage of times when your kids are at school, or arrange for them to be cared for by your partner or hire a sitter for a few hours, so you can focus on holiday preparations. Then set appointments with yourself to get the items checked off.
  3. Make Decorating a Family Affair
    Making your home look festive is a job that the whole family can help with. Adults might need to be responsible for the fragile decorations, but children will have fun setting out the ones that aren't breakable.

    "Adults can hang Christmas tree lights, but let the kids put the ornaments wherever they want," suggests Charles Pascalar, author of "Holidays with Kids." Show them how to space things out, but give them the freedom to be creative and have fun.
  4. Select Gifts Together
    Shopping for gifts is often a major source of holiday stress. Instead of taking all of the responsibility on yourself, ask for input from your family members. Kids may have suggestions of meaningful gifts, rather than pricey ones.

    "I think it's pretty universal that gifts that come from the heart and gifts that are extension of you, your values and your intimacy are more relevant and meaningful than gifts that are bought," says Mellen. Children can help assemble a scrapbook of pictures for Grandma or a basket of art supplies for the cousins.
  5. Let Kids Be Crafty
    Sometimes you need a chance to accomplish holiday tasks without the input of your small helpers. Craft activities can keep kids busy while you work, and some of their projects can even be useful. They can make wrapping paper out of butcher paper, or make placemats, name cards and napkin rings to add a family-friendly touch to your holiday table. Look for projects that will keep them engaged for a while, such as making paper chains.
  6. Give Little Jobs to Little Hands
    Your child may not be a master of dexterity yet, but there are still plenty of jobs little hands can complete satisfactorily. And don't stress about perfection. "A handprint can be just as lovely, if you know whose hand it was," reminds Mellen.
    • Envelope stuffing and sealing
    • Stamp sticking
    • Gift wrapping -- if your child isn't there yet, even young kids can apply the tape
    • Setting the table
  7. Watch Holiday Movies
    An occasional show is a good way to entertain your children, while you check items off of your to-do list. "Opt for popping in a holiday classic that will help them feel the holiday spirit, while you are holiday choring yourself," suggests Clark. This way you can also watch the movie while you doing some online gift shopping or signing your name to holiday cards.
  8. Work Together in the Kitchen
    Food is a big part of many holiday celebrations, so let your kids work beside you in the kitchen. Not only is this a way to spend time with them during a busy season, but they'll learn valuable lessons about stirring, measuring and pouring.

If the thought of holiday stress makes your palms sweat and your head spin, take a word of advice from Mellen: "The holidays don't have to be some sort of crazy gauntlet that you're running. People want more time to spend with the people they love, more than they want something that looks like it came out of a catalog."

This year, focus on making the holidays a family affair. With planning and teamwork, you can involve your children in the process and enjoy the preparations together.

Do you have any tips for getting kids involved in holiday preparation?

Meghan Ross is a freelance writer with a background in child development, education and family life. Her work can be found here.

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