Kids love Christmas, but they too feel stress and holiday anxiety at this time of year, especially if parents are stressed.
If parents are stressed at Christmas, their children will most certainly pick up those feelings of holiday anxiety. So how do you make sure they are not overwhelmed by the season? These holiday stress management tips will help both parents and children recognize holiday anxiety and feel less stress, because helping kids cope is the best way to enjoy Christmas!
How Do You Recognize Holiday Anxiety?
Holiday Stress Management Tips for Kids and Parents
Kid’s behaviours sometimes seem to come out of nowhere. One day they are riding a bike with no issues and the next day they refuse to get on one ever again. Sleeping through the night, and then suddenly up with nightmares for a week solid every evening. It’s exasperating and exhausting and frankly hard to figure out what triggers these things sometimes.
Of course you can and should ask your child first, if they are verbal, what’s troubling them. See if they have any idea what is stressing them out. Sometimes kids can be insightful and identify a source of distress on their own. OR maybe not. If not then you need to put your detective hat on and try to figure out what, if anything, changed.
So what are common signs of holiday stress in kids?
Signs of holiday anxiety include:
* Tears for seemingly minor reasons.
* Nervous behaviors such as nail biting and hair twirling.
* Physical complaints, such as stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, diarrhea, etc.
* Regression to younger behaviors: bed wetting, eating with hands.
* Withdrawal from school friends or siblings.
* Any behavior that your child does not normally do could be a sign of Christmas anxiety.
Ten Holiday Anxiety Tips to Help Manage the Stress
Use the holiday stress management tips most appropriate for your child.
1. Take Them Out of the Spotlight.
Take children out of the spotlight during Christmas plays or performances at relative’s homes. Helping children cope with holiday stress involves knowing their personalities and limits. My kids used to do acting, so singing and dancing was part of that. One of our relatives used to always ask them to sign or dance or recite French on command after dinner or just for fun during the holidays. That wasn’t actually what the kids wanted often. So, we had to buffer and protect them from that sometimes.
Our kids also went to French immersion so they were often asked to sing in French or speak in French. Not meant to be a mean spirited ask at all, but the kids needed down time too. There needs to be a balance.
2. Combine parties and get-togethers
To reduce the time you spend partying. For instance, invite your aunt to a kid’s Christmas party. Combine birthdays sometimes with holiday parties if you need to. Don’t do so every year, but once in a blue moon you need to do so.
3. Stick with the routine as much as possible.
When our children were small we lived and died by routine. Sound dramatic well maybe…but our children have some unique challenges and one has sensory processing disorder, along with other diagnoses. and another has anxiety disorder and routine was everything. Keep stressful holiday shopping and eating out to a minimum; start preparing for Christmas early to avoid holiday anxiety.
4. Ask your children what makes them feel better.
Do they wind down with music, reading, spending time with you or playing with siblings? To help children calm down at Christmas, encourage them to do what they love and of course let them take breaks to do those things.
5. Eat well and hydrate.
Make sure your children eat nutritious foods, drink lots of water, and get exercise. Reducing kid’s holiday stress looks similar to minimizing your own holiday anxiety.
6. Talk to your children about traditions and spirituality.
If you believe, then focus on the real meaning of Christmas and trusting God. If you have traditions, explain why they’ve stayed in your family.
7. Bring a bit of home with you.
Bring a favourite blanket or stuffed animal if you’re staying with family over the holidays. A bit of home will reduce your child’s holiday anxiety. We had an entire protocol for our one daughter, which was especially helpful and crucial, because she had Sensory Processing Disorder. Knowing she had her favourite items with her in a strange situation helped her keep control of her emotional state.
8. Cope with your own holiday anxiety.
The less Christmas stress you feel, the more relaxed your children will be. Let go of your preconceived notions on what the holidays are supposed to look like and feel like. If your child struggles with anxiety on a regular basis and it interferes with their everyday routine you may need to seek medical help or assessment.
Maybe now is the time to take a moment and volunteer at a food bank, kid’s hospital or community centre. Find ways to give to your community; volunteering can sometimes relieve feelings of holiday anxiety.
10. Use humour
Lighten the mood with funny movies, toboggan afternoons and cozy chats with hot chocolate. Humour is truthfully one of the only ways we manage here with high levels of stress on a regular basis.
With a few strategies and precautions you can get through the holidays relatively unscathed. Who knows you might even enjoy a few quiet moments on your own. Don’t forget to take care of your own needs too. Self care for parents is important, and even more so where special needs are present.