During the holidays, many adults remember joyous times from their childhood. As a parent, you are able to enjoy the festivities through the eyes of your child. Most of your energy is spent in order for your child to be happy and peaceful. You also know that the holidays can be a stressful time for your family, and child stress can lead to exhaustion and overwhelm. You may be dreading the tension, irritability, or tantrums that have become a predictable part of your holiday experience.
This year, use these ten useful stress-stoppers to help both you and your child have a peaceful holiday, filled with memories that will bring excitement, rather than stress, for the years to come.
1. Start a conversation. During the holidays, the changes or stressors that your child has experienced throughout the year can take a tole on him or her. Help your child talk about any changes that have happened, whether big or small. If your family has experienced the loss of a loved one, a move, or added a new family member since the last holiday season, be sure to talk with your child about his or her thoughts and feelings.
2. Keep your child’s needs involved in your planning. Talk with your child about the holiday traditions that may be important to him or her. Be honest about what your child can expect this holiday season, and do your best to make clear plans and stick with them. It will help reduce your child’s stress to have some consistency and predictability during the holiday season.
3. Value experiences over things. Too often we miss the chance to create memories because of the distraction of physical gifts and electronic entertainment. This year, find new traditions to add to or replace some of the materialism. Find a festive place to visit. Bake a batch of cookies together. Go outside and enjoy the crisp air. Play a game with the whole family. Your child needs your attention more than anything else.
4. Plan extra time for preparations and traveling to keep the holiday rush to a minimum. Don’t set yourself up for failure; allowing for extra time keeps irritability at bay. Making an effort to bring along healthy snacks and calculating in time for bathroom breaks will highly increase your odds of a smooth day, whether it’s a day of shopping or a day on an airplane.
5. Take time to give back to others. Many families find that it’s rewarding to feel more connected to the world at large, just as it is comforting to feel more connected with the family during the holidays. Plan a day to bring gifts to a family in need, deliver a holiday meal, or bring baked goods to the elderly in your community. It’s an opportunity for your child to feel that he or she can make a difference and to feel proud. Also, it may help him or her appreciate the comfort of home and family during the holiday season.
6. Watch your child’s fatigue level. Do your best to keep routines and schedules on track – especially bedtime and mealtimes. A sleep-deprived child filled with sugary snacks is the opposite of holiday cheer. Pay attention to when your child is ready to leave the mall or the party, and make sure that you have rest days planned in-between all of the activities.
7. Watch your own fatigue level. Keep your expectations of yourself at a reasonable level. A child can sense the stress that you experience, and it has an impact on his or her own level of stress. Making your well-being top priority allows for you to be present and attentive to your child’s needs. Prioritizing rest and being present with your child will also help create lasting memories of the holiday season that your child will cherish as he or she grows up.
8. Model for your child a calm way of interacting. Just like your child can sense your stress, he or she notices if you’re snippy with the cashier or roll your eyes at your aunt. The expectations from extended family and friends on top of your already busy schedule also leaves you more susceptible to taking out your stress on your partner or co-parent. Consider that your actions are a direct instruction manual for your child, especially when it comes to how you handle stress, and practice strategies for boundary setting and peaceful interactions during the holidays.
9. Create a nurturing space. Think about making the environment around you feel even more beautiful than it looks. If your holiday traditions include decorating, rather than rushing through the process, think about tending to the relationship with your child as much as the lights on your lawn.
10. Don’t do it alone. You can help your child overcome stress or sadness during the holidays with your presence and acceptance of his or her feelings. However, I know that this is easier said than done. Don’t be ashamed to enlist the help of a close friend or family member if you are feeling overwhelmed. If you feel that you could benefit additional support from a professional to address your child’s (or your own) stress, don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.
Contact me for a free phone consultation.