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The Lotus Clinics of KidsTLC: Helping Families with Holiday Expectations

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By Amanda Altenhofen, MS, LMFT

Q: I can already feel the eyeball rolls from my family as I try to keep our holiday traditions alive. Is it time to build new traditions and new memories?

A: We know from research that we cannot make our kids, or really anyone, remember something specific, meaning we really cannot make memories for others. We also know that we cannot control what other people think of us. Traditions are tricky because they served a purpose for the family in the past; however, they may no longer serve our modern family. One year, our family sat around the table and talked about the Christmas menu. No one wanted the turkey, or stuffing, or all the intensive cooking that comes with cultural expectations of the meals. The family wanted spaghetti. That was fine with me, as a jar of sauce and some pasta took way less time and planning than an elaborate meal. The spaghetti was a crowd pleaser, and no one complained about having to come to the dinner table. Every year we look forward to a creative Christmas dinner that has become our tradition. When looking for your own ways to integrate new traditions, it is okay to check in with the kids to find out what is important to them. It is also okay to ask kids how they want to celebrate the holiday. Together, as a family, old traditions can be observed or new memories can be created.

Q: I’m already beginning to feel anxious about the upcoming holidays and the stress I inevitably feel as I try to be everywhere and make everyone happy. How can I manage these emotions and busy schedule without becoming overwhelmed?

A: The holiday can be the most triggering time when people, especially moms, are burdened with the unreasonable expectations of making a “perfect” holiday. We know that when a brain is stressed, it cannot think clearly. Try these three steps. As with any advice, take what you need and leave the rest behind.

Plan ahead. Decide early what is important to you and your family during the holidays. Planning early allows your brain to stay calm to enforce boundaries around what is important to you and your family.

We cannot control the emotions of other adults. Someone is mad that you skipped that party? They didn’t get that present? That is on them, not you, to manage their emotions. You are responsible for your own emotions and can act accordingly.

Let the holidays happen. People, especially our kids, will react to the stress in their environment. Parents being in a calm place will help the kids to emotionally regulate. If you can laugh at the inevitable holiday disaster, you can teach your kids to find the humor in the situation as well, averting further stress.


Amanda Altenhofen, MS, LFMT, is an outpatient therapist at the Lotus Clinics of KidsTLC and believes everyone deserves compassionate treatment in an environment where they feel safe. She is part of a team of more than 20 providers who offer outpatient services to children, families and individuals as they face challenges with mental and behavioral health. Visit to learn more. 15940 College Blvd. | Lenexa, KS 66219 | 913-764-2887 |