Sunday, December 8, 2013
Holiday Stress: Coping Strategies
Family plans and celebrations may be complicated a variety of factors. Relationships with adult siblings can put children in awkward positions. Family dynamics can be hard to navigate particularly with families who are separated, divorced or remarried.
The following are some tips for parents to help children cope with holiday stress:
Discuss holiday plans well in advance, and include your children in the planning process. Children need some degree of control and predictability. Prolonged uncertainty, constantly changing plans or last minute decisions can all increase stress. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a spontaneous experience but be careful that other plans aren’t upset in the process.
Make sure children get plenty of rest. While it may be exciting to stay up late, lack of sleep often leads to increased irritability. Stick to the “normal routine” as much as you are able. This is also true of regular meals and snacks. Holiday time brings in special foods and sweets. Be thoughtful about how these impact children’s health and wellbeing.
Don’t promise things you can’t produce. For example, don’t promise something will happen during the holidays if the decision is really out of your control. Instead stick with plans that are achievable and reasonable.
Don’t try and compensate for an absent family member or inability to do a special activity with lots of gifts. What most children really want is your time and attention. Focus on them. In fact, limiting gifts can have a positive effect. Many families choose one special gift per child. Our family did this along with a family gift – a new game, special activity together or some other family based event that everyone could enjoy. This shifts the focus from gifts to time spent together.
As the adult, take care of yourself. Try to avoid getting overloaded with obligations. If you feel stressed, it increases the pressure and tension on your children.
Most children enjoy the holidays. However, preparation, patience and honesty can help prevent conflict, reduce stress, and enhance the holiday season for the whole family.