Parenting Through the Holidays

For many families, the holiday season can be an incredibly stressful time of year. Several factors can contribute to additional stress during the holidays for parents: fatigue, unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization, financial constraints, and the inability to be with one’s family and friends. That said, the holidays can provide wonderful new experiences for parents to explore with their children. The following are some things parents should keep in mind during the holiday season:

During the holidays, it is important for parents to remember the importance of schedules.  Holidays often create an upheaval in household routines, which can cause anxiety and stress in children. They may have a tough time being on their best behavior and are more likely to experience holiday stress when they’re exhausted or hungry. Therefore, it is important for parents to try to return to regular routines immediately following any disruption in normal routines. Try not to overwhelm your child with scheduling; allow ample down and rest time for them.

Schedules are not the only things disrupted during the holidays; eating habits are often thrown into disarray. With holiday snacks filled with sugar and the lack of time to sit down to regular meals, it can be all too easy for kids to eat less healthy foods, which can contribute to additional stress and anxiety in children. Therefore, remembering healthy snacks and meals when possible will prevent post-sugar holiday meltdowns.

Fortunately for parents, the holiday season can provide ample opportunities to create and share new experiences with their children. Exposing a child to new and exciting holiday traditions provides bonding time and creates new memories. Engage a child in a holiday storybook reading or have them join you in singing holiday carols or listening to holiday music. Bring them to a free children's performance at a local church, synagogue, school or community center. Share in traditional cooking and baking recipes. Take time to make low cost decorations. As you work with your child in creating cookies or decorations, ask them about what they are making and why it’s important. Together, create stories for each activity for children to remember and repeat them throughout the holiday season.  Ask questions like “What is a gingerbread man? What does he do? Can you tell me about him?” These experiences are both educational and fun and will help your child strengthen their memory, cognitive skills and creativity!

Exercise and fresh air are essential for boosting mood and re-setting the spirit, which can alleviate holiday stress. Take the opportunity walk with your child past holiday decorations and window shops. As you do this, talk to your child about what they see. Engage them in positive talk surrounding these new experiences.

Remind your child what the holidays are about, not excessive commercialism but helping others and spending quality time with those important to you. By modeling behaviors that help those around you in the community, you are setting an example for your child to follow. Whether its wrapping presents for a children's toy drive at a local church or volunteering to serve food to those less fortunate, giving back will not only help boost morale for yourself and those you serve, but will instill in your child the importance of civic mindedness.

Lastly, remember to take some time for yourself, to relax and remain calm. Children have an innate ability to detect stress and anxiety in those around them. By taking care of your own mental health, you are providing a sense of calm and stability for your child. Most importantly—ENJOY!

Local Low Cost and Free Holiday Attractions and Activities to Share with your Child

Memphis, like most other urban cities across the US provides a variety of opportunities for seasonal fun. Below are some fun and inexpensive places to explore with your child during the holidays:

  • The Peabody Hotel
    • Take a trip to visit the famous ducks in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel and look at their beautiful holiday decorations. Better yet, no cost for admission!
  • The Pink Palace Museum
    • Visit the Enchanted Forest Festival of Trees at the Pink Palace Museum. Children under 3 are free!
  • Meet Santa
    • Meet with Santa at a local church or town square
  • Jingle on Downtown
    • Downtown Memphis provides a variety of low cost and free events this holiday season. The season will kick off with a lighting ceremony on November 18th from 4:30-6:00 p.m. at Court Square. You can take a trolley ride to tour the light display and on Saturdays, the trolleys will be complete with on-board carolers. Or watch a free pet and kids parade down main street! Check out all of the fun holiday activities downtown Memphis has to offer!
  • Memphis Botanic Gardens
    • Visit the Botanic Gardens for an evening of lights, snow, and holiday magic. In addition to light displays and snow falling, there will be holiday music, winter crafts, and games throughout the "Backyard." Children under 2 are free!
  • Starry Nights at Shelby Farms
    • Drive a 1.5 mile route through Shelby Farms and take in the more than one million eco-friendly light bulbs on festive display.
  • Zoo Lights
    • This is one of Memphis' biggest Christmas light displays.


At the Urban Child Institute we are always interested to know of different events going on in our community. If you know of an event that you would like to share with us, whether it be at your local religious organization, school, community center or anywhere, please let us know!

Happy Holidays from the Urban Child Institute!!