The holidays are a special time of year for children and adults alike. However, the school break, holiday gatherings, and presents can also bring stress, anxiety, and fatigue. See the tips below to support your child’s mental health during this holiday season.
The best way to prevent stress in your children is to manage your own stress. If you are managing stress well – you will set a calm example. Be sure to practice good self-care and get enough sleep. You are the role model for your children! For kids, a lot of the stress that comes this time of year is from uncertainty. This was intensified during the pandemic last season. Be sure to be open about what their holiday break schedule will look like this year, including what they are expected to do and what activities are planned. Predictability is key in managing stress.
Give your child the tools to work through stress/anxiety
No matter how much you plan and attempt to reduce stress, there are still times where it can overcome your child. Some tools that we suggest using when your child is feeling stress include, focusing on calming breath or meditation, journaling, reading quietly, allowing them to spend time alone, getting outdoors into fresh air, taking a warm shower or bath. Talk with your child about why they are feeling stress and help them to find ways to work through it successfully.
Keep a routine
Again, predictability is key! Try to keep sleep and eat schedules close to the schedules your children keep while in school. An exception for special occasions like New Year’s Eve, is alright for children older than 5 years. The remainder of the holiday season, it’s best to keep bed and wake-up times within an hour of the usual during school time. Eat three healthy meals a day and be sure to keep active!
Prepare for family and friend time
The holiday gatherings that you will have with family and friends are supposed to bring joy and togetherness. For children, a room full of adults asking them questions can be overwhelming. Prepare your child by giving them an idea of who will be at the gathering and what the event will look like. Remind them that the people they will be surrounded by are excited to learn about what they have been up to since they were seen last. Help them to prepare and practice answers to common questions so they will feel more comfortable.
Remember that they are kids! Some traditions depend on kids being on their best behavior and with lengthy services, parties with strangers, and elaborate meals the demand can be high. When scheduling events be sure to have just one high demand activity per day, or every other day. Allow plenty of time for rest and recovery.
Be sure your children get 8-10 hours of sleep each night. Also plan for relaxing activities that allow for recharging such as reading, a movie night or family yoga class.
It is so easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and miss out on fun activities that can be had together. Take time to do something that you all want to do and don’t feel like you have to do. Laugh and be silly!
Make a New Year’s resolution.
Talk with your children about their wishes and goals for the coming year. Encourage a resolution that supports mental health. Some examples include: start a gratitude journal or do the Roses & Thorns game in the evenings at mealtime. Click here for more info https://thefamilydinnerproject.org/fun_content/rose-and-thorn/