Last week, I wrote about 20 Ways to Reduce STress During the Holiday Season. I included many tips for adults and a few for children. However, after some reflection, I truly believe that more emphasis needs to be put on stress reduction for children during the holidays, don’t you?
What do you think of when you think about kids and holiday stress?
But the holidays can also be a stressful time. Financial pressures, high expectations, and packed schedules can be challenging no matter what time of year it is. During the holidays, these potential challenges seem to hit many of us all at once, and parents aren’t the only ones affected.
Stress, pressure, anxiety, and worry can all find their way among families’ wish lists and holiday parties.
“Every year my family gets together over Christmas and eats food, hangs out and laughs,” one young person wrote to kidshelpphone.ca.
“I always dread these parties because for some reason or another, they make me feel left out and alone. I simply wish I could share something in common or get up the confidence to talk to these people. I shouldn’t feel so much pressure to fit in with the rest of my family.”
– actual post from kidshelpphone.ca
Here are some tips that can help everyone, but especially kids and holiday stress:
- Create a holiday calendar and put it somewhere the whole family can see it. Talk about what is coming up to help kids understand what is expected of them. Make sure there’s still time in there for everyone to relax, too.
- Help your kids feel included. With school closed for the holidays, young people can sometimes feel isolated from their friends. Making young people a part of the holiday celebrations can help them feel part of the celebrations. Outline roles and responsibilities in advance by making a list of how kids can help.
- Shift the focus to giving. Why not ask kids to make a list of things they want to give this year? These things could be as simple as time, such as reading to a younger sibling once a week or helping a neighbour shovel their driveway. Working on a list like this with your kids can also be a fun way to start a family discussion about how giving back can either continue or become a part of your lives all year round.
- Expect the unexpected. Help kids feel they are participating in the act of giving by preparing for unexpected gifts. Sometimes kids receive surprise gifts from friends or family members, but don’t have anything to give in return. Having something on hand that kids can give away in these instances can help, even something as simple as a candy cane or a card.
- Talk about what you want to do as a family during the holidays. How does a pyjama day sound? Why not spend a morning baking cookies with your kids? Decide together what the holidays should be about. Maybe you’ll end up creating your own family tradition in the process.
- Not everyone gets time off from work during the holidays. Open up about work schedules or other concerns that may impact the holidays. It will help your kids understand what to expect.
- Remember that even though the holidays are here doesn’t mean that any worries your family members have will disappear. School stress, conflicts with teachers, and fights with friends are all examples of things that kids might be concerned with during the holidays. Let young people know that just because the holidays are here doesn’t mean that they can’t still talk to you – no matter what’s going on.
- Maintain perspective. What do you do if your kid has just received a failing grade before the holiday break, or got cut from a sports team? You might have family members who you worry about disappointing. Remember to keep it in perspective. Deal with the news the same way you would at any other time of the year.
- Take care of yourself. Part of keeping your family healthy means keeping yourself healthy, in body and mind. Take a bath, curl up with a book, or sit down to watch a favourite movie. Do whatever it takes to help you recharge reconnect with yourself. Remember – they do call them “holidays” for a reason!