It's the most wonderful time of the year, and you want it to be so special for your child. While you are busy creating memories by frantically running to the mall, decorating cookies, figuring out how to please everyone, you might not realize the toll it is taking on the people you are trying to make everything so perfect for.
Findings from a 2008 poll on holiday stress conducted by the American Psychological Association revealed that eight out of ten Americans anticipated stress during the holiday season. In the APA's 2012 Stress in America survey it was found that 69% of Americans attribute their stress to money related concerns and 61% attributed stress to the economy.
It's important to remember that parents and kids need time to relax and enjoy the season. It can be tough for kids that see their parents buying many things and appear over-loaded. The parent comes home stressed out because they just blew their whole paycheck on Christmas shopping. Your child isn't quite sure how to interpret that.
Be aware of some signs that your child may be becoming stressed out:
- Crying for no reason, whiny.
- They become nervous start biting their nails and twirling their hair.
- All of a sudden they start getting stomachaches or headaches.
- Friends don't seem very enticing to them; they start to withdraw.
- They become markedly different in their attitude and behavior.
The ways to help keep things "normal" is to actually keep things normal. Stick to your routine.
Jana N. Martin, Ph.D., a child and family psychologist based in Long Beach, Calif., suggests you aim to keep at least some aspect of the routines your child is accustomed to.
For instance, if you can't tuck them in at their regular time, keep up at least one typical pre-bed ritual, like a bedtime story or a glass of warm milk. "This lends focus to the chaos," says Martin. "Kids know that no matter what else is going on, this is something they can count on."
Exercise is a natural stress buster and even though it may be cold outside, bundle them up and send them outside for an afternoon of building snow forts or sledding, or set up a game of at-home bowling with empty plastic water bottles and a foam rubber ball. Keep their minds active and their hearts pumping -- it helps those endorphins kick in and creates less downtime to think about things that may be troubling.
You don't have to attend every holiday party. You are allowed to say no. It can be taxing on a child to have to have good manners and not run around and be dressed up. It's tough for many adults in social situations and not much easier on a child.
Family traditions can bring comfort to your child. It's a sense of familiarity and again the routine. Many don't realize how important traditions are to themselves and their children.
Let your kids be kids. "Overscheduling activities can lead to tense and anxious kids," notes Ruth Peters, Ph.D., a child and adolescent psychologist based in Clearwater, Fla. And since stress over a prolonged period taxes the immune system, it may even result in physical ailments, such as colds or flu. Consider getting a sitter for some of the parties and such so they have down time.
Feed the hunger. "Giving your kids meals and snacks at regular intervals keeps blood sugar regulated and nerves on an even keel," explains Shawn Talbott, Ph.D., author of The Cortisol Connection Diet. If you are waiting for a big meal and they can't wait, a little piece of cheese or a small snack can help keep hunger in check.
Above and beyond everything, the holidays are a fun time -- so embrace the fun try not to give into the pressure of the "shoulds" and what you think "should" be happening. You know what is best for your family more so than anyone and it is about family so remember to take care of them and you so you are able to enjoy the holidays!