Notes from Dr. Lynn Collins’ presentation November 2018, by Meghan Goldman

Parenting and the Holidays from Dr. Lynn Collins

Happy December Everyone! At our general meeting last month, Dr. Lynn Collins, clinical psychologist, discussed how to make holidays meaningful with young children. I found her talk really insightful, so I wanted to share my notes with you all. In case you were busy enjoying the delicious meal Teacher Marty made for us (Thank you, Marty!), or you could not make it to the meeting, here are some of her thoughts:

  • Say “no” to everything that feels obligatory. Say “no” to holiday events, family members, and messages from the media that don’t fit in with your values.
  • Be intentional in how you celebrate the holidays. Think about what is really important to you, and ask your kids what’s really important to them–what do you want to make sure that you do this holiday season, and does this line up with where your time, energy, and resources are going?   
  • There are four critical things that children really need during the holidays.
    • 1) Children need relaxed and loving time with their parents. Manage your own stress by practicing lots of self-care, so you can really connect with your kids.
    • 2) Children need reliable family traditions. Create kid-friendly traditions that align with your values, such as helping those in need and spending time with family.
    • 3) Children need an evenly paced holiday season. Space out holiday events, so it doesn’t feel like an intense rollercoaster ride.
    • 4) Children need realistic expectations about gifts. Be explicit about the kinds of gifts your kids will get (e.g., something big and something small; or something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read). Tell your kids if their idea for a gift is not realistic. Make gifts rather than buying them. Expand on what it means to get/give a gift (e.g., a gift of time, a gift of experience, or a gift of skill). Counter media messages about commercialism. Educate extended family members about alternative gifts.

If you’d like more ideas, Dr. Collins can be reached via email at: or you can visit her website for more information: Last year, Teacher Marty also recommended the book, Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season by Jo Robinson and Jean C. Staeheli, for other suggestions. Finally, the websites Hand in Hand Parenting ( and Aha! Parenting ( have excellent articles on this topic, as well as on many other parenting topics. Wishing you all a joyful and laid-back holiday season!