The holidays are supposed to be fun, relaxing and a chance to spend more family time together. If chaos and stress are more the rule in your home, try these tips from parents and lifestyle experts.

Kim John Payne, director of the Center for Social Sustainability and creator of Simplicity Parenting:

  • Agree on a limited number of shopping trips.
  • Instead of buying dozens of gifts, agree on a family gift and ask grandparents, whom Payne calls “rabid gift-givers,” to contribute
  • Spend time together making gifts. “All the giggles, all the fun – that builds up a lot of relational credits.”
  • Keep kids to their regular schedules as much as possible. Children are stress barometers, Payne says. When they’re melting down, you’re doing too much.

Wendie Trubow, a mom of four, co-founder of Visions HealthCare in Wellesley and a physician specializing in whole-life care:

  • Don’t just tell yourself, ‘I’m not going to stress.’ Give it 10 minutes of thought. Then, write it down. How many extracurricular activities can you manage? “Success lies in the details of how we do it.”
  • Think ahead. And ask yourself if the things you have done in the past make sense for the future. “Being specific gives you a measurable result.” This works for everything from budgeting to staying healthy over the season.
  • Write down your idea of a perfect holiday; it will help you keep your vision. “The perfect holiday is an idea. Let’s bring some definition to that idea.”

Stacey Maydak, a Mansfield mother of two:

  • Start drafting a holiday list in October and then consider buying one or two gifts a week starting in early November. “I’m not a last-minute shopper. That would stress me out.”
  • Know how you will use your holiday dollars. “I set a budget next to everyone’s name and I stick to it.”
  • Make a menu for your holiday dinner. “I kind of keep it simple. I don’t go crazy.”

Erica Jacobsen, a Newbury mother of two:

  • Give up on “picture perfect.” Behind each and every one of those perfectly posed, everyone-looking-at-the-camera holiday cards that come in the mail is a story of families yelling at each other, children melting down and many outtakes that never make the front of the Christmas card.
  • Pick a go-to teacher gift and use it every year.
  • Eliminate gifts for grown-ups and focus on the kids.
  • Take a hint from Santa. Make a list, check it twice. Don’t go out to a store without a list. You will be more tempted to overspend or will become frustrated that you can’t figure out what to buy.
Michelle Xiarhos Curran is a freelance writer and mother of three in Newburyport.