Dealing With Holiday Stress

Growing YearsAs adults, we are very acquainted with holiday stress. We experience it every year. While the holidays are enjoyable (we look forward to them), they can be very stressful for some, if not all, of us. Sometimes we forget that our children our not immuned to the stress of the holidays, simply because they do not buy gifts, decorate or entertain. In fact, their stress adds to our stress.

During the holidays, routines and schedules become blurred, with a flurry of new activities. Anticipation of holiday surprises (gifts) builds to almost a frenzy state, and regular diets are interrupted with mounds of “holiday goodies.” And, during the holidays, we tend to rely on “fast food” to sustain us, due to our harried schedule. You can control the stress to a manageable level, by following a few simple suggestions.

Communicate: Have your child close his/her eyes and visualize the perfect Christmas. Talk about the vision and listen to your child’s words. Validate your child’s vision and calmly talk about the feasibility of the vision being a reality, or how to make it a reality. Have a good time with the interaction. If your child is sad about losing someone in the family circle (death or divorce), encourage him/her to express the sadness and make a special drawing, note and/or card for them. Talk about the finished card and decide a proper ritual for displaying it during the holidays.

Make It Vanish: Have a slow breathing ritual every morning and night (and whenever needed). Do five “balloon breaths” each time. Breathe in to a count of 3 and out to that same slow count, imagining there’s a balloon filling up with air. Push the chairs back, turn on the music and dance. Try to inject some form of movement every day, to get the serotonin flowing, to calm you and your child. This can be done in fun ways, such as racing to the door (skipping, jumping, running), dancing through a Christmas video (pretend to be Rudolph running, flying and playing reindeer games) or anything your imagination envisions.

Reach Out: Helping others will center us in a very calming way. Collect toys, make cards for hospital or nursing home patients (be sure to include your child in the delivery), help at a soup kitchen, or help a person in your neighborhood without family for the holidays.

Plan Ahead: Keep a family calendar of planned activities in a place for all to see. Talk about it at the dinner table. Tell young children when an event will occur, long before you need to embark on it. Plan when you will shop for, and wrap, gifts. Allow your child to participate in the wrapping. Plan baking times and let you child help. Give plenty of time to avoid rushing. Routines should be kept as much as possible, and still enjoy the holidays. An example would be when bedtime is pushed back an hour, you would still read the book, or perform the same bedtime ritual, regardless of time.

Enjoy a happy and stress-free holiday season for you and your child.