The holiday season is about to kick off with a bang! I don’t know how other parents feel, but for me, once Black Friday arrives I literally tighten up my abs in preparation to be punched in the gut with holiday stress. The shopping madness, the pressure to decorate like the Griswolds, the baking, family gatherings, hosting, recitals, programs, etc. Did I leave anything off? Don’t get me wrong, I love the warm feelings of the holidays. However, for me those warm feelings of “good cheer” are often accompanied with an onslaught of stress. As a parent, it’s crucial that I get a handle on holiday stress not just for me but for my family, especially my children.
Children’s behavior can often be a gauge on which to measure the climate of a family. If my kids are stressed, it’s a sure sign that there is a stressor in the household. Signs of stress for children can be anything from a change in appetite to atypical behavior. An example of atypical behavior is if your typically mellow child starts to lash out or tantrum. Or, if your usual bubbly child starts to withdraw more often. Additional signs of stress can be if your child is unusually tired, not sleeping well or waking up at night, complaining of headaches, acting clingy, expressing worries, feeling anxious, bedwetting, etc. As parents we know our kids and when they seem a little bit “off” in their typical behavior. And as parents, it’s our job to stay in tune with stress levels throughout our household, especially during the holiday season. Below are a few ways to help alleviate stress for young children.
- Remember we are the model for calmness and tranquility. Children feed off of our energy and it’s important to show appropriate ways to manage stress. Show positive ways for self-care, whether that’s meditating, journaling, yoga, scheduling quiet time, etc.
- Stick to routines. The value of sticking to routines provides stability and prediction for young kids. Young children feel empowered when they can anticipate change with a predictable schedule. There is an overall sense of safety and comfort in knowing “what comes next” consistently. However, the holidays often bring about events that can disrupt a consistent schedule. If there are a lot of unexpected changes in a child’s schedule the best thing we can do is to make sure to allow for a lot of prep for the change in routine. This means talking with kids well before an event is about to happen to help them ease into the new transition. For example, “Tomorrow is going to be a long day, we have two recitals to attend and a cookie exchange. Let’s plan how we can make sure to have enough healthy snack to keep our energy up. We need to make a list of things not forget. OR, if you prefer, let’s just pick one event to go to. Which do you prefer?”
- Set realistic expectations. Setting realistic expectations means being in tune with what is physically possible for your child. If you know you have a child who desperately needs an afternoon nap then you may have to forgo the invitation attend an afternoon choir recital. If you know that attending another sugar-ladened playdate holiday themed party is going to send your preschooler into a meltdown, then put your child’s needs first. Take time to analyze what is really doable in your schedule and avoid overscheduling.
The Parenting Hub would love to hear how you and your family manage holiday stress. Please send your tips and ideas to: firstname.lastname@example.org