Kids and Holiday Stress

christmas candlesCan you feel it happening even as you read this? Yep, life is speeding up and racing towards the holidays. And as you begin your double-step pace through the month, don’t forget that things speed up, crank up, flare up and become more stressful for your child, too.
As a former school secretary I saw the effects of this busy time of year on many people. I was in a unique position to see both families and teachers not only trying to fit more and more into an already packed schedule, but also trying to fit it in perfectly with nary a hitch in their day.
But inevitably, there were hitches and there were glitches. Both of which ratcheted up the stress level significantly. And when you realize that children are standing right in the middle of the home and school busyness, it makes sense that they are impacted by holiday stress on both fronts.
Unfortunately, your child’s behavior may show the results of this stress just when you are on your last nerve. And that’s never a recipe for a happy holiday season. So what can you do to make these next few weeks go more smoothly for your family?
Well, it seems you’ve already taken the first step by becoming aware. I think that old adage, “Forewarned is forearmed”, makes a lot of sense. You are aware that you, your significant other, your children, your friends- actually, the whole country- is going to be feeling the effects of holiday stress this month.
Having this knowledge is going to allow you to forgive some small transgressions, temper tantrums and hissy-fits that might otherwise send you over the edge. But you won’t be able to ignore all of them (nor should you) because you are only human. So the key here is to help your family find a pressure release for the stress before it reaches the full-on temper tantrum stage.
Now is the time to think about things that can help keep your family on an even keel. Once you come up with a list, place that list in your arsenal of tactics for surviving the holidays in good form. Here are a few suggestions that I think would work well for most families.

  1. Rely on keeping some kind of a routine during these busy days. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, routines provide kids with a sense of security. Their world feels more in balance when the usual, familiar routine is followed.
  2. Don’t be afraid to say no. We all know how easy it is to get pulled into the holiday fun. But the fun can quickly turn into a stressful chore when time is at a minimum. Think it through long and hard before jumping on the next band wagon.
  3.  Let your standards slip a bit. It’s hard not to love serving your famous homemade, intricately decorated, cut-out sugar cookies. But in all truthfulness, is it really awful to make up a couple quick pans of bar cookies instead? Sometimes having more time and energy to spend with your family tops having an entirely spotless home and perfectly wrapped gifts. Try popping those presents into easy-to-use gift bags and spend the afternoon sledding with your family instead. You’ll all be happy you did.

Obviously, I could go on with my suggestions but I think you get the idea. Doing anything you can to help your child feel less rushed, pushed and pulled during the time leading up to the holidays is worth your effort. You and your family will be the winners with this approach.
In keeping with my idea of streamlining activities and cutting stress for your family, I looked to the web for some ideas that would be helpful. I found a great article about Holiday Stress on the Anne Arundel County (Maryland) Health Department website. I hope you find it helpful as we enter the melee of the season.
Take care and I’ll see you back here soon.

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