Annie Seo

True Parent 6

The Indoorsy Type

A Very Blended Family

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Ask the Parent!

An iPad to Remember

The Secret Weapon

Parent to Parent

Christmas Comes but Twice a Year

A Mother Inside

As Yuletide descends like a slow-moving Santa-laden tsunami, you have visions of empty pockets from fruitless shopping, ringing ears from canned jingles, and the trickle of cold sweat down your back as you race toward a new year.

As a parent, you want to demonstrate to your kids some moderate enjoyment of the season, while maintaining a bit of tradition, and keeping the bank account padded. But you don’t have to murder yourself doing it.

Organize your forces to reframe expectations. What’s most important is family togetherness, frugality, and a lack of wasted time (and not a single DIY project in sight!).

Think thrifty

Invited to a fancy party? Get everyone’s holiday outfits on the cheap by shopping at local or online consignment shops—most kids’ formal wear has only been worn once anyway.

Reconsider the whole “standing in line” thing

Why is it that the holidays bring out compliant masses to sit on a stranger’s lap and demand material goods? Why not skip the Santa photo this year? (You know it’s just going to collect dust in some forgotten drawer.) Take a photo of your kids writing Santa a proper letter instead, which also teaches them a thing or two about composing their thoughts and expressing gratitude.

Limit paper products

Look, it’s okay! Send an email holiday card instead of a printed one... or none at all! Do you keep holiday cards? Nowadays you can get caught up on your friends’ lives on Instagram (which is basically everyone’s curated holiday card delivered 365 days a year).

Go a step further and save a tree

Get a fake tree and call it good for the next 10 years. Yes, there’s the tradition of picking out a tree at a lot or cutting it down yourself—but in the end you’re left with the sad, dried-out husk of a plant whose sole purpose was short-term decoration. These days, fake trees are pretty good imitations. (And heck, you can make a big production out of going down to the drugstore to buy one, and posting your photo on Instagram—because you are following rule #3, right?)

Set rules for party-going

Running around to every school event or party is exhausting any other time of the year, and even more so during the holidays. Create a rule to attend only those events that (a) you can walk to, (b) welcome your children, or (c) don’t expect you to arrive with food, a white elephant gift, or other contribution. They have time to throw the party; let them do the work.

Protect your stomach

Feel free to skip any food or activity that makes you remotely queasy—like those found at parties featuring limited, suspicious snacks, or holiday sing-alongs when you can’t stand carols. This time of year is stressful enough; no need to tempt nausea!

Have perspective

The current news cycle is full of stories about folks less fortunate than the rest of us. Take a moment to consider how lucky you are that holidays are a minor annoyance, rather than something more dire.

No need to be a Scrooge about any of this! You’re doing the right thing by enjoying holiday cheer on your terms, protecting your assets (and your sanity), while making the most of your time with the family. Setting rules gives you an easy path to follow, allowing you outrun that jolly tsunami at a reasonable pace.