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Holiday Anxiety in Children

 

The holiday season portrays itself as a holly jolly good time starting in November with Thanksgiving and continuing through New Year’s Day. During this time, there are longer school breaks for children, more time off for adults, and planned gatherings. For many, it also provides an opportunity to visit and reconnect with the friends and family you wait all year to see. But, as adults, we know this time can be quite overwhelming. Between traveling, hosting holiday parties, and visiting extended family and friends, it can all be a bit much at times, especially for the youngest of our family members.

For those with children, take this time to consider your littles this holiday season, and the potential impact of the chaos that the holiday season tends to bring. For infants and toddlers, this time is filled with meeting people that are essentially strangers, being held, picked up, and in new and unfamiliar environments. For preschool aged children, the entire routine is disrupted. Not having to attend preschool with consistent drop off and pick up times, and probable shifts in the major daily routines surrounding mealtimes, naps, and play time. As for school aged children and adolescents, there are longer holiday breaks, potential schoolwork to complete over the holiday break, and again disruption in routine. Not to say that it’s all negative, but there are some considerations to keep in mind while navigating the holiday season with the children in your family.

Some special considerations begin with setting clear boundaries and expectations for behavior. Set a calm example for your children as they can sense if you’re overwhelmed, so it is beneficial to remain calm, cool, and collected during this time (at least while in their presence). Set boundaries with family members as well, keeping your child’s comfort level with touch and affection in mind. Provide your child with an environment conducive to good behavior, avoid crowded places such as a mall or a holiday party when the child is tired or hungry. Allow time in your day for calm or relaxing activities such as reading a book, or drawing/coloring a holiday picture for a family member. Remember that their routine is being disrupted, so attempt to provide some normalcy resembling a typical day, and plan for calm and quiet activities the days following the holiday itself to help your child get back on track. Another great consideration is to monitor what your child is eating, try to limit their intake of extremely sugary holiday candies and snacks. Prepare healthier snacks for car rides and shopping trips.  Another great tip that is beneficial for the whole family: be active! Encourage play time and physical activity for your children to boost their mood and release some stress.  For parents of school age children and adolescents, get them involved with your daily tasks during the holiday season. Have them help with tasks that are safe to do so, as this can be a great way to boost their self-esteem and distract them from the holiday stress and anxiety. Having your teen help also provides you with an extra set of hands!

Remember that the holiday season can be stressful and anxiety-inducing for everyone, including our children. Take this time to connect with friends and family, while keeping your (and your children’s) sanity intact. Eat, drink, and be merry with those around you. Offer some grace and patience to your child (and yourself!) if they begin to show signs of overstimulation and overwhelm and have more difficulty regulating themselves. Happy Holidays!

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