Dealing with Holiday Fatigue for Preschool Teachers (And Students)

Holiday Fatigue: What it is and how to help little ones (and you) through the season.

It’s beginning to look a lot like, well, it’s beginning to look a lot like the busiest time of year for many of us. It can seem like endless parties, themed school days, and cookies trays. Bring this casserole. Make this craft. Rsvp to yet another event. It’s a lot. Despite the lights, music, and festive decorations, if you find yourself feeling extra tired or just out-of-sorts, you’re not alone. Holiday fatigue is more common than you think. All of the extra activities coupled with the perceived pressure to be “jolly” can often lead to feelings of exhaustion and even an uptick in anxiety or depression.

And guess what? It’s not just you. Or me. It’s the kids in your classrooms too.

The holiday season can be particularly taxing on little minds and bodies. All the new sights, sounds, routines, and even the parties can leave our little ones feeling off balance and in a state of constant overstimulation. For adults, this type of exhaustion can look like just that, exhaustion. It’s common to feel extra tired or worn out. For children, however, holiday fatigue might look a little different than it does for adults. For children, exhaustion can often look like misbehavior. A child might act out or become defiant even if they are typically mild-mannered. It can manifest itself in the way they lash out at siblings or suddenly seem to lose interest in things they normally enjoy. So, what can we do to help kids and ourselves through this busy time while still enjoying the festive nature of the season?

4 Tips to help fight Holiday Fatigue:

  1. Prioritize rest. Okay, so this first tip isn’t all that earth shattering, but if we’re talking about holiday fatigue it would seem logical to include the most obvious way to combat it. Rest. But seriously. Make sure you’re getting enough rest. This is especially true for kiddos. Between naps (if they take them) and bedtime sleep, encourage families to log enough sleep hours each day. Adults need about 7 hours each night and kids around the age of 6 need about 10 hours of sleep each day.
  2. Stick to the routine. This goes hand in hand with tip 1. Despite all the extra holiday activities, try to maintain your typical routine as much as you can. If you usually exercise 30 minutes a day, try to stick to that even while traveling. For kids, if they are accustomed to morning routine, same wake time, breakfast, dressing and off to school, then try to make a version of that happen. This might mean leaving a party early in order to make school days more pleasant. Maintaining your routine is important to ward of feelings of anxiety and restlessness.
  3. Find the balance. From food to activities, find a good balance between indulging and holding firmly to your typical patterns. Having too many holiday goodies can throw off your body’s digestive system and cause issues with sleeping and overall wellness. This can lead to illness which, while common during this season, is another thing to take care of during an already busy season. I always recommend having a mellow day of low activity following any big day.
  4. Hold your boundaries. Don’t be afraid to say no. Turn down the commitment to volunteer hosting the party. Leave the event early. Buy cookies instead of baking them. Watch a movie instead of going out on the town. Throw meat and cheese on the board without making it look like a Christmas tree. Children need caregivers who are calm and clear-headed even during the holidays. They don’t need more hot chocolate especially when the adult handing it to them is sweaty and annoyed at having to make it in the first place. Find a way to protect your peace even if that means saying no.


Next time you’re in a new (to you) classroom, try these strategies to help lessen the time spent focusing on the event of transitioning and more time on the productivity of the classroom.

Contributing Expert Author

Samantha Reeves, M.A.

Samantha has over 25 years of experience in the field of child development. She has worked in all manner of professions as they relate to children including beginning her career as a floater teacher with 3 units, to a multisite center
regional director, and most recently, a professor in the Child and Adolescent Studies department at CSUF.

Samantha earned her B.S. at Cal State Fullerton in the same department she would later instruct in. She has a M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University where she focused her research on attachment theory and attachment related disorders.

Samantha lives in Anaheim Hills with her husband and 4 children. She recently made the decision to put her teaching career on pause to stay home with her kids, but plans to return to the classroom in some format in the future.

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