Christmas is supposed to be a magical & joyous time of year but sometimes all the events and the mile-long to-do list feels overwhelming – for the kids, too. Here are 5 tips to help manage family stress during the holiday season.
The experts at KinderCare offer these tips to help families manage stress during the Christmas season.
1. Help children with their expectations of Christmas events.
The chaos of the holiday season can stress young children, because they may not remember what’s to come. In your gentle parenting way, talk to them about your holiday plans, who they’ll see and what usually happens at the different events throughout the season. If in their current developmental stage they are unsure in new situations or meeting new people, let your friends and family know beforehand and explain how you would like them to handle the situation. Start familiarizing them with people they will see during the holidays by looking through photos and making phone calls or having “face time” with them.
2. Allow your children to make choices.
Children need to have a choice in uncomfortable situations, and family members need to respect their choice. Watch your child’s body language and hear what they’re saying. Allow them to say “no” when they’re not ready to hug & kiss relatives or participate in what others may be doing. Give them a chance to see what’s going on and warm up to their surroundings. You can help by asking “Do you want a hug?” and if they say “no,” support them in their decision. This helps them establish healthy social skills and know that they have a choice in uncomfortable situations in the future.
3. Stay on schedule as much as possible.
Consistency is one of the best ways to manage family stress during the holidays. It’s important to try to maintain little children’s regular schedule, such as naps, meals and playtime. It gives them a stability and helps them keep from being overwhelmed. We feel like we’re making a day special when we let them “stay up”, but the lack of sleep is a major factor in a child having issues. Changes in schedule can result in tantrums, so allow space for them to safely work through their emotions.
It’s also important to note that children feed off their parents’ energy, so make sure you’re in tune with your own emotions. When overwhelmed, openly discuss how you’re feeling and involve your children when taking breaks. For example, “It’s loud in here, would you like to go sit outside with me?”
- Have fun. Make time to spread joy and integrate activities to bond as a family, such as reading holiday-themed books, crafting, playing games, singing or baking. Whether old traditions or new, these are moments your child can cherish for years to come.
- Keep others in mind. While it’s important to set children up for success ahead of the holidays, parents should also teach children the holiday season can look different for others. Putting a focus on experiences rather than the gifts can help them have more to discuss with their peers when returning to school. It’s also a good time to consider donating toys to make room for new ones or volunteering at a local charity to show children joy can be experienced through more than just gifts.