Holiday Stress: Some Suggestions For Coping
Parents and kids can become overwhelmed by the holidays, but for different reasons. Kids become excited about getting out of school, more free time playing with their friends, sleeping late, and the anticipation of receiving gifts. On the other hand parents become anxious about all the preparations for the season – decorating (some people love it, others hate it), the buying of gifts accompanied by the twin worries of what to buy and can we afford it, and decisions about who to spend the holidays with or to just stay home. When the holidays actually arrive we are faced with the temptation to overindulge either in the way of food or alcohol.
For adults, the holidays may not be a particularly happy time. There is this expectation that we should be happy and enjoying ourselves, but the time may also trigger past memories of loved ones who are no longer with us to share the holidays or past arguments and even violence with people with whom we are now estranged.
Here are some suggestions to keep in mind during the holiday season:
- Remember, your own mood as an adult is often reflected in your child’s behavior. If you are tense and uptight and argumentative during this time of the year, you may see these behaviors in your own child.
- It is okay to be sad or melancholy during these times. Just be aware of these down times and don’t make them worse by drinking to excess. If you are feeling down, consider volunteering at a homeless shelter. Ask you children if they would like to help out too.
- Kids can easily be overwhelmed by all the excitement of the season so it is important, especially in the case of very young children, not to schedule or try to do many things.
- Since kids don’t have their normal schedule of going to school, and thus know what to expect each day, it is important to talk to your children about what is being planned for the day or week. This helps a child to know what to expect and this is always comforting.
- Try and keep some of a child’s normal activities or routines during the holiday. Doing normal or routine activities helps to keep the child grounded and not so overwhelmed with new experiences.
- If you are planning to go to a large family gathering or perhaps a special religious observance that your kids don’t normally participate in, let them know what you expect in the way of their behavior.
SOURCE: Lynn Henton, Ph.D., psychologist and mother of two young children.