The holidays can be an especially anxious time for anyone. If you’re noticing more tension than usual, your child may be experiencing similar feelings. Your child might seem a bit withdrawn or irritable, may sleep more than usual, or is exhibiting other signs of stress. Some stress is okay, but when these feelings start to overwhelm your child, it’s time to intervene.
Reasons for holiday stress and anxiety
The ‘holiday blues’ are real, and have many underlying causes:
- Fewer daylight hours. The decreased number of daylight hours can have a significant effect on mental health, including your child’s. Even in the Sunshine State, many begin to feel the effects of seasonal depression during these shorter winter days.
- Changes in routine. When your child is off from school for winter break, the whole routine changes. Even if they don’t recognize it, your child could be affected when the familiar daily structure of school, bedtime, and mealtimes becomes less rigid.
Tips to help your child with holiday-related stress and anxiety
Even if your child isn’t showing any particular signs of holiday stress, these tips are great for fostering a healthy and strong family connection.
- Take care of yourself. Kids are attentive, and they pick up on family ‘vibes’ more than you might think. If you are in a bad mood, it can affect their mood as well. When you are stressed and anxious, it can increase their levels of anxiety as well and make them more irritable. Although the holidays can be a busy time, make sure you set aside time to take care of yourself and unwind. Your body and mind will thank you for it and so will your children. You can start by exploring these ideas for taking a break.
- Stay active. Staying active as a family can be difficult, but keeping up with physical activities is crucial for a happy family and healthy children – and parents! If your child plays a sport, winter break might be their off season, but that doesn’t mean that all physical activity should stop. Physical activities aren’t just limited to sports, either. Here are some ways to help your child and your family stay active:
- Eat well. Eating well is another crucial part of living a healthy lifestyle, but it can be difficult and sometimes inconvenient for busy families. It’s also difficult during the holiday season when many want to simply indulge. Along with their holiday treats, make sure your children are getting the proper nutrition they need daily. Involve your children in menu planning, shopping, and cooking!
- Meditate. Meditation can be intimidating at first, but can be extremely beneficial to anyone experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety. A guided body scan meditation can be a great introduction to meditating because the purpose is to check in with yourself and your feelings. Try this body scan meditation as a way to relax for yourself, or for your family to unwind together.
- Foster open communication. Talk to your children about your holiday traditions and be open to their answers. If they don’t like a certain tradition, talk about ways to change it and make it more special for your family. If family dynamics have changed (such as a divorce, new partner, or a death in the family), talk about that too. Let your child know that it’s okay (and encouraged!) for them to come to you and to be open with their feelings.
- Give your child control. During winter break and without a set routine, life can feel a bit unsettling. Talk to your child about what they want the winter break routine to look like. Having a discussion with them about their new schedule will give them a sense of autonomy and ownership over their own lives.
- Manage gift expectations. Gift-giving comes with its own stress, both for you and your child. If you know your child wants something out of your price range, be honest with them ahead of time. If your child believes the gift will come from Santa, be ready to deal with those expectations as well.
- Get crafty. Being creative is a lot of fun and a great family bonding activity. Have your kids choose and help with a new recipe, make some cookies that they can decorate, or create some fun holiday decorations and gifts. The possibilities are endless and anything that gets the creative juices flowing is a great stress reliever.
- Enjoy holiday stories, movies, and music. Even though some favorite community and school events have been canceled due to the pandemic, there are still many wonderful events happening online and through the creative programming of libraries and museums. Enjoy!
Don’t let the holidays get you and your family down.
If you need help talking to your child about changing family dynamics or just want to learn more about parenting, browse our parenting workshops or call us to schedule an appointment.