Reduced-Stress Easter

Easter is another holiday that causes anxiety for us. Most holidays do because of the unpredictability and lack of routine that each and every holiday brings.

Last year our Easter didn’t go so well, and by the time we found our baskets, Gabriel was having an anger-meltdown. He was so anxious about finding eggs, yet protecting his new found goodies, that I ended up having to take the Easter Bunny treats away, from all of them until we could all settle down a bit.

Which is just a bummer.

And I’d like to avoid that this year.

Here are my tips for a reduced-stress Easter.

Easter Eggs: You don’t have to dye eggs. Really, you don’t have to. You can color them with permanent markers, sticker them, paint them, put those self-adhesive foam stickers on them, or even glue funny faces on them. I don’t like fake dye to begin with, so this is a good way to get out of it! A open - ended activity like gluing or coloring requires less of me; I don't have to be hyper-vigilant over dye. So, be creative – and reduce stress by not having 12 bowls of neon water sitting on your table for your kids to play in. Makes me calmer already.

Easter Clothing: Most people dress their kids up all fancy for Easter. But you don’t have to. If you choose to go the dressy route, make sure your child is wearing child-friendly clothing. Whatever their sensitivities are, don’t try to push them on Easter! Kids already have high anxiety, add a scratchy outfit (or slick new shoes, or itchy tights, etc) and their ability to cope – be flexible and tolerant of the changes – is further diminished. If you need ideas, check out (I would assume you still have time to order too!).

Easter Brunch: Many people go out for a fancy brunch. But, you don't have to. Now, it is only fair to say that this part is my kids' favorite, because a nice brunch at a nice restaurant usually means all the bacon they can eat. But we stopped going a few years back. Why? Because it flat out wasn’t fun. Not for me anyway. I was the one not eating, wrangling kids, taking walks, arguing over pancake temperature (Nick is still crazy picky), all in dress clothes and heels. Not my idea of a good time. We have opted for an at-home brunch the last few years. This has been great – and I’ve even made extra bacon for Gabe and Matt. One of my favorites kid-friendly-at-home-brunch ideas? Try a ‘pancake bar’. Make pancakes, in oval shapes (you don't need a mold, just eye it, and circles are just fine too) and let your kiddos ‘decorate’ the pancakes like eggs --- syrups, fruit, whipped cream, sprinkles, mini-chocolate chips, whatever – go crazy! And all in your house slippers too.

Easter Baskets: This is the major point of contention at our house: hoarding. All of those little treasures mean that Gabriel needs to defend them – which he will with his life if need be. Try doing it a little differently. The Easter Bunny can bring a stuffed animal (easy to carry) or just leave out items to be shared in a family basket– like bubbles, sidewalk chalk, new makers/paints, playdoh, etc. If you want to do the baskets, I suggest two things: 1. Instead of a basket use a bag that they can keep, and ruin if need be. I found mine at the Disney store this year for $1. Try the Dollar Store, or grocery store for reusable and inexpensive bags. And 2. LIMIT what you put in them. Kids love new stuff – but they don’t need 100 things in their basket! A cool new car, and some stickers is enough to make my kids happy. It is ME that needs to remember not to overdo it. And for me, spending less money and buying less crap is definitely stress-reducing.

Easter Basket Goodies: I highly suggest NOT putting in candy – or at least LIMIT the candy. My rule of thumb is to put something in their baskets for them to eat later (chocolate bunny, very small) and something in that they can eat now (gummy fruits, animal crackers, or Annie’s chocolate bunny crackers). My boys want to eat whatever they find – and most likely it is 7am when they find it, so I care what they get.

Also make sure you are filling their basket with things that your kids will use – I simply cannot stand buying a bunch of crap and then watching it all get broken and tossed within hours. For ideas on what you can put in their baskets that will BENEFIT them in some way (social, emotional, small motor skills, sensory, etc) check out my 101 Stocking Stuffers list here. And the best part of putting things in their basket that they will actually USE? It keeps them busy. Oh, and my favorite item to add? A spring themed kids' DVD -- a built in way to transition to quiet time when they are wound up. Perfect.

Keep It Simple: Often we as adults like lots of pomp and circumstance with our holidays. But, our kiddos, they’d really prefer a dose of good old fashioned calm-predictability. Make sure you plan what you are going to do, even write out a visual schedule for you kiddo, and stick to it. You don’t have to go to 10 different places and hunt eggs at no less than two churches and three houses in order for Easter to be deemed a success. Why not just hold a simple egg hunt at home, and then let the kids make pancakes? Easy for everyone. And less stress too.


If anyone has other good tips, please leave them in the comments below!

I am following the list above this year, with one exception. We are going to Victoria Canada by boat for the holiday. You might cringe at the idea of exchanging holiday stress for vacation stress, but the boys are pretty good travelers. And being out of town means that everything is scaled down (no family gatherings, no crazy egg hunts) – and I don’t have to cook. Bonus.

Oh, and to make sure the kids survive at the restaurant (first time in about 2-3 years) I got them Kids' Night Out Bing from Knock Knock -- see it and buy it here. I have to say, I LOVED most of their products -- which I got to browse at one of those stores that is full of breakable things that you would never let your kid of those...alone yesterday while my mom had all three kids. My mom rocks.

See ya later Peeps!

Photo: My boys and my niece, a few years back, on one of our dressy-clothes-overscheduled-fancy restaurant Easters. Look how little they are. Awww.


Chynna said...

Great tips, Hartley. Easter has gotten so stressful in our house that what we do is make a whole 'team' game of finding eggs. We get those plastic eggs from the dollar store and put 2 -3 (MAXIMUM) jelly beans, Skittles or gummies in each one. Then we look TOGETHER and put them in a big bag that we all share.

It's a bit easier for us because we don't do fancy lunches/brunches or anything. We make a nice dinner at home and keep things simple. AND we have severe nut and chocolate allergies so that makes things even easier. HA!


Anonymous said...

If someone in the family must have egg dye, Paas Color Snaps are sooooo much easier. Five q-tips, each with a different color in the stick. Snap them open, the dye runs into the cotton, and you can dot and stripe to your hearts content. Looks like everyone else's eggs, but no bowls and no spills. The dye does transfer to the fingers fairly easily until it's completely dry if you have a kid who hates to be messy.


Hartley said...

Chynna -- we don't do anything with fake dye (read online about how the dye in skittles is ILLEGAL in some european countries -- Gabe reacts HORRIBLY to it) -- but we are hiding plastic eggs with playdoh in them at the hotel this year. You should come and see us one day! How far is Victoria from you? LOL

Cathy -- I LOVE THIS! I have never heard of the Color Snaps before. Definitely going to have to look them up. Thanks for the tip!

Talk soon ladies,

Caitlin Wray said...

Like you, we are cutting back on goodies (we've been cutting back each year for the past few years).

I continue a tradition my mom started when I was little, which I still remember being so excited about. Easter morning I would wake up to a list of rhyming clues that would lead me to the secret hiding places for my treats. Deciphering the clues was MORE than half the fun! I've been doing this with my kids for years, when they are too little to read, I read the clues for them.

I will pick Chynna up in my minivan and we'll meet you in Victoria ;) It's beautiful this time of year!

a Tonggu Momma said...

If you DO hide eggs, you can color-code them so that each child collects just one color. We do this with the Tongginator and her four cousins (two of the children have sensory issues and one is a toddler). Works great! The Tongginator collects the purple egss... my youngest nephew collects the blue... oldest niece collects pink... and on and on. Cuts down on fights and impulsiveness and the like.

Hartley said...

Next Easter I am SO stealing all of your ideas! :)

Thanks Caitlin and Toggu Momma!

Em said...

thank you thank you!!! i always get overwhelming anxiety when holidays come around. but this list has definitely made me feel a bit better about Easter this year.

Chynna said...

Bad me for suggesting Skittles. Thanks for pointing that info out about them...I already knew all about the research findings on Skittles and similar candy. We do Feingold. That was a slip of the fingers. =) Did you know that they have Smarties with no fake dyes and stuff in them? I guess people are finally catching on to the harmful effects of them.

I forgot to share that since we have four kids in our house searching this year, we give each of them a number and the kids each have to find the eggs with that number. It reduces fighting.


PS: Caitlin, you are hilarious. I'll watch for ya! OH! And we had the poem-finding method in our house too. My mom was a poet. =D

Caitlin Wray said...

What Chynna... you thought I was kidding? I'm in the minivan outside your front door right now ;)

Anonymous said...

I second the comfy clothes rule, but I adjust it by having him in the nice clothes for a short period of time and then bring him "softer" clothes to change into.

As for treats, I limit them as well and fill up the empty eggs with small toys like cars, crayons, etc.

Chynna said...

LOL @ Caitlin!! Well, I hope you have ear plugs with you because I have a house full of cranky kids. =D