Many families feel stressed around the holidays. There are additional expenses, commitments, and expectations. Many of us have very specific expectations of ourselves and others that are difficult to fulfill and may even be conflicting. The season can be hard for children, especially very young children, or those with sensory and attention issues. Seasonal decorations may be overstimulating, and changes in routines of eating and sleeping can be disruptive.


One way your family can cope with seasonal struggles is to plan some quiet activities that all family members can participate in. Some families enjoy crafts or cooking. These can be terrific as long as they focus on the process rather than the finished product. It’s also important to understand what children are capable of at their developmental level, so the adults have realistic expectations. For example, baking cookies as a family is a beloved traditional holiday activity. Children of all ages love to help bake! Even the youngest kids can help organize, measure, and stir ingredients. They may not have the ability to roll dough out or use cookie cutters to make shapes. They may also lack the attention span to complete this task. However, they might be able to roll some dough into a ball and place those on the cookie sheet. By carefully considering the abilities of your children and matching your recipe to those, baking cookies can be a family-friendly activity that will create fond memories for everyone.


There are a variety of craft kits available for the holidays to create special ornaments and decorations. These are good activities for older children. You can find these kits at craft stores such as Michaels or JOANN. Make decorations for your use around your own house or make gifts for family, friends, and neighbors.

Fun tip: Using a cookie cutter on a potato makes a fun “stamp” to use with tempera paint and decorate plain gift bags with stars, bells, drills, or other seasonal figures.

Save money by checking Pinterest or other craft sites for ideas that match your children’s interests, strengths, and abilities.


Many families want to focus on giving rather than receiving during the holidays. A simple way to do this is with a Kindness Chain activity. Cut strips of colorful paper and keep them in a basket with a glue stick or stapler. Every day, ask each family member to think of an act of kindness they did. Have them write it on a strip and then make it a loop with glue or staples and attach to their chain.

Each family member can have their own individual chain or maintain one chain for the family with each person having their own color paper. This activity is not a competition, the links are to represent the acts of kindness. The activity works even better when linked to your family values. At the end of every week, take some time to reflect on how the chain has grown. Be sure to ask if anyone wants to share a kindness given or received from a family member, and how it helped them.