As sweet as the holidays can be, between last-minute shopping, food overload, and winter break from school, it can be an overwhelming time of year for parents. Even though the kids are off school and routines are in complete disarray, don’t let your parenting skills take a vacation!

In the spirit of a famous holiday song, I put a MomTini twist to the “12 Days of Christmas.” Here are 13 ways – – a Baker’s Dozen – – to ease stress, stay healthy, and save money this holiday season.

First, on gifts:

1. Turn Whining Into Wishlists – Get your kids to write wish lists. This serves many useful purposes. First, it teaches the important lesson of delayed gratification; provides a roadmap for grandparents to navigate the kids’ aisle with preparation; and communicates the idea that you can wish for anything in the world, and that alone is a gift. Click here for more info on this topic.

2. Consider a Gift Exchange for Adults or Teens – Indulgence is everywhere, and with everything going on in our world right now, simplifying the gift-giving may be in order. For the adults in your family, consider putting names in a hat, so each person buys and receives one gift. Set a spending cap so everyone gives and receives in the same range. Consider a theme, and be creative with it – for example, if your theme is “relaxation” which is appropriate for this time of year, you can get creative and give music, bubble bath, wine, a soft blanket, and so on.

3. Consider Gift Swapping – You can host a get together where everyone brings 2 lightly used gifts, and by exchanging with other families, you’re adding freshness to a toy that may have hit its “fun factor” expiration date in another house, but would be a blast for your own kids.

4. Donate Old Toys – Holidays and birthdays are a perfect time to encourage sharing. Kids, who may be less likely to part with their “favorite toy” (even if they haven’t played with it in years) will be more inclined knowing that they’re helping someone else and are also about to receive new toys. As they get older, this habit will become one the kids are accustomed to, and charitable behavior is reinforced. Remembering kids who don’t have the luxury of getting toys at holiday time is so important.

5. Homemade Gifts are Priceless – Whether you’re looking for recession-proof gift ideas, or your kids are anxious to buy gifts for relatives but don’t have the funds in their piggy bank, homemade gifts never fail. I’m all for simple, and I’m far from artistic, but putting a picture on some construction paper, letting your kids decorate, and laminating into different shapes at an office supply store can turn basic supplies into masterpieces: bookmarks, coasters, etc.

And…on finance:

6. Give Your Kids a Vacation Budget – If you’re traveling this holiday season, you’ve likely considered an appropriate spending limit for your family. Give your kids a budget for the trip. You’re likely to buy them trinkets anyway, and by giving them a limit, you’re not only teaching them good financial management skills, but you’re setting limits upfront so you’re not negotiating at every souvenir stand. Plus, you’re teaching your kids to make choices.

7. Coupons are abundant in this economy – From the Sunday circular to coupon mailings at home, retailers are anxious for your business in this economy. Keep a bag of coupons in your car or a folder in your desk – clip & organize so you’re more likely to redeem.

8. Look for…and beyond savings – When I say “beyond,” I mean, don’t take savings at face value. Marketing is at play to make something more appealing to customers, and you may not be saving at all. Be sure to factor in shipping & processing charges when comparing.

And …on eating:

9. Control Overeating by Slowing Down and Actually Enjoying the Taste – Slow down, taste, and ENJOY!

10. Consider Healthy Alternatives in Holiday Dishes – Traditional holiday dishes are delicious but often loaded with calories and fat. Dr. Jack Flyer, founder of CardioCare, a Washington, D.C.-based practice focusing on wellness and preventive cardiac care suggests that you consider experimenting with some inventive and healthier dishes to complement your family recipes. Dr. Flyer suggests lower fat/lower sugar alternatives in recipes to cut calories and fat.

On stress:

11. Reduce or Eliminate Stress – Dr. Flyer also had some great heart-healthy tips in this important area: “In addition to leading to an increased heart rate and higher blood pressure levels, people frequently respond to stress by allowing themselves to indulge in unhealthy habits like eating in excess or drinking heavily,” he explains. Some tactics he suggests include the following: 1) Make your dinners potluck; delegate side dishes to guests; 2) Get some alone time every day to recharge your batteries; and 3) Try to enjoy the holiday season rather than sweating over the small stuff.

And in closing…on beginnings…make it a Happy New Year!

12. Start or Keep a “We’re Thankful For” Tradition with Your Kids. Teach your kids to be thankful for the little things, and go around the table at mealtime taking turns sharing what you’re thankful for. Your kids’ perspectives may surprise and enlighten you, and saying out loud what you’re thankful for is such a fun & uplifting exercise. Consider starting a family journal where you record each family member’s thanks in a book – it will be a blast to revisit in years to come.

13. Make Realistic New Year’s Resolutions. I’m always amazed at how crowded the gym is in January and how much easier it is to find a bike or treadmill in February. Case in point – we get pumped up to do more, do less, in many areas of life, and get overzealous at first, and lackluster shortly after. Try to make realistic, achievable goals, and encourage your kids to do the same. Then, write them down and store them in a safe place. Mark your calendar to look at the list monthly or quarterly.

So, whatever holiday you’re celebrating, make it a safe, happy, and memorable one!