Tips For Managing Holiday Stress With Your Children
Dec 18, 2013
"I once bought my kids a set of batteries for Christmas
with a note on it saying, toys not included."
It’s the most wonderful time of the year… or is it? The Andy Williams song would have everyone believe that the holiday season is all about togetherness, parties, toasting marshmallows, singing songs, etc. Mr. Williams probably did not have his in-laws stay for an extra week, screaming kids who have developed a serious case of the “I want that now” or a fight with his spouse over the mounting bills. The holiday’s can be the most wonderful time of the year, but they are often fraught with stress, arguments and in some cases tears.
How do you keep the holidays that most joyous time that Andy Williams described in his song? Here are some tips and tricks that should help to manage your stress level when dealing with almost any situation that confronts your family.
First and foremost, television specials are for entertainment purposes. Your holiday should not be compared to something that is scripted with a happy ending. If you can accept this premise, your holiday stress should drop significantly. Additionally, if you accept the fact that the holidays come with a side of stress, you are going to get much closer to the idyllic setting Andy Williams wrote about. It is not a bad idea to plan some coping mechanisms in advance such as making time for a walk, listening to music, exercise, yoga, etc. Without healthy coping mechanisms in place, most people fall back on bad habits such as over-eating or retail therapy.
Children, especially those who are still in the “I believe in Santa” phase, are susceptible to feeling the stress of the adults around them. Because they are still in a “me-centric” stage of development, they have a strong tendency to believe the stress is their fault. Keeping a cool, level head around your children will help to keep their stress levels lower as well.
Children’s routines are comforting and reassuring, but the holidays are a time when those routines can go out the window. If the holiday meal is going to be at 7pm and your children normally eat at 6, feed them at their usual dinner time. Keeping your children on their regular meal schedule will keep their blood sugar on an even keel. If your child is getting wound up and meal time is still a few hours away, try tiding them over with a dairy snack such as yogurt. It is thought that certain proteins in dairy products have a calming effect. Another routine to keep an eye on is bedtime. If you will not be able to follow the routine to a “T”, find one aspect of the pre-bed ritual intact such as story time or a glass of warm milk. This will comfort and reassure your child that they can count on mommy or daddy for something stable.
Big holiday gatherings can be stressful and scary for some children. Loud noises, small spaces, and strangers in close proximity… it is enough to make anyone uncomfortable, let alone a young child! Come up with a secret code word or gesture your child can use to send you an SOS. Knowing this option is available to them can be enough to reduce anxiety.
This can be the most wonderful time of the year, or it can be a series of forgettable nightmares. Managing expectations, having open lines of communications, and a clear plan to de-stress when possible will go a long way to making lasting memories and unforgettable traditions! Happy holidays, everyone!