The holidays are a fun and joyous time but also a very busy one, and holiday stress and anxiety in children can and does happen. There are lots of activities and events going on during the holidays. While that can be a good thing, the reality is that all the hustle and bustle means schedules are often changing, bedtimes get pushed back and routines are disrupted. As a result, it’s inevitable that kids may feel some degree of holiday stress.
Set a calm example
The most important way parents can help ease anxiety in children during the holidays is by trying to keep things relaxed as much as possible. As with so many situations, the way parents handle an issue can set the tone for how their kids will behave. To minimize anxiety in children during the holidays, take steps to handle your own stress and anxiety.
Set up the right conditions for good behavior
Avoid taking your child to places such as the mall or holiday gatherings when they are hungry or tired. It’s hard, even for adults, to deal with noise and lots of stimulation when they’re not feeling their best. Kids get hungry more often and become tired more easily, and may understandably have a tough time being on their best behavior and are more likely to experience holiday stress when they’re exhausted or hungry.
Routines are Important
The holidays can throw a big wrench into household routines, and that can play a role in anxiety in children. To minimize holiday stress in your kids, try to get routines back on track once an event or party is over. For instance, if a school holiday concert or a church gathering goes past your child’s bedtime, try to stick to quiet, calm activities the next day and get your child to bed on time the next night.
You are what you eat
Another habit that can fall by the wayside amidst the holiday hubbub is healthy eating. Between all the extra sugary holiday snacks and the lack of time to sit down to regular meals, it can be all too easy for kids to eat less healthy foods, which can contribute to holiday stress and anxiety in children. Try packing healthy snacks when you have to go shopping or run other holiday errands and try to minimize the number of sweet treats at home.
Keep your kids moving
Fresh air and exercise are essential for boosting mood and re-setting the spirit, which can alleviate holiday stress and anxiety in children. Make sure you schedule some time to get your child outside to run around and play.
As tempting as it may be to accept every invitation from friends and family, try to limit your holiday parties and activities so that you and your child are not overwhelmed. A couple of events a week may be fine, but having an obligation every day can lead to holiday stress and anxiety in children.
Quiet time is good
Having some peace and quiet with your child is more important than ever during the busy holiday season. Find a quiet corner and read a book with your child or create holiday pictures for grandma and grandpa. Take a walk outside in nature, away from noise and crowds and obligations.
Remember what the holidays are all about
A great antidote for holiday stress and the bloated commercialism of the season is helping others, whether it’s by shoveling an elderly neighbor’s sidewalk or by wrapping presents for needy kids at your local church. Helping your grade-schooler become a charitable child will help alleviate their holiday stress and anxiety.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
One universal contributing factor to holiday stress could be a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This condition is prevalent during the winter months due the cold temperatures, dreary days and dwindling daylight hours. Health experts recommend increased sunlight exposure, artificial light therapy, temporary use of antidepressant medications or professional counseling and therapy to combat SAD.
If you find yourself, your kids or a loved one feeling a bit too stressed this holiday season seek help by calling the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Helpline at (800) 560-5767 during business hours (M-F 8:00-4:30) or the 24/7 Toll-Free Statewide Crisis Line at 1-855-274-7414 (855-CRISIS-1).
Money, money, money…money!
The colder months can be a time of stress for parents due to the pressure to buy gifts while continuing to pay the bills, some of which are much higher in the winter months. For example, energy bills can double or even triple when the temperature drops. The Tennessee Housing Development Agency oversees a program to help residents pay their energy bills, click here to learn more.