The holidays are fast approaching, is there a way to lessen the hype and stress for my children during this time?
The holidays can be a stressful time for everyone. Busy schedules, constant shopping, mandatory activities and family gatherings all contribute to holiday stress. Adults are not the only ones that feel this stress; children feel it too! Children are often dragged along to crowded, noisy shopping centers where marketing for the holidays begins earlier every year. The commercialism at these stores can be confusing and over stimulating. Children are asked to be excited about a holiday that happens in December two months in advance. That is a long time to sustain a high level of enthusiasm. The full-blown marketing of companies and media creates unrealistic expectations about what the holidays should be for both adults and children. Consider shopping without your children if at all possible.
Take each holiday as it approaches. There is no need for children to prepare for a December holiday beginning in October. When the holidays are approaching, spend time with your children reading holiday books, baking cookies, singing or listening to music, or making decorations. You could do these last two activities in stages. If your children get tired stop, allow them to walk away for a bit. Finish later when their interest returns.
Some fun simple activities could include:
• Create a Thanksgiving Day centerpiece for the table.
• Design homemade wrapping paper. Buy a roll of plain brown butcher paper and allow the children to decorate with paint, markers, etc.
• Spend a day making cookies -- try out new recipes.
• Bird feeders out of pinecones, peanut butter or Crisco and bird seed. These can be used to decorate an outside tree.
• Share your favorite holiday memories from when you were a child.
• Reuse holiday cards you receive -- cut out images to make one big holiday card collage or repurpose them as gift tags for your presents.
• Make noisemakers out of empty water bottles.
These time consuming activities mean more to children then a roomful of gifts. They want to feel loved and accepted during this crazy time. Children like to have a role in the festivities with relaxed parents that welcome their help.
Media is another factor that adds to the hype of holidays. All the television commercials that glamorize toys and materials can lead to an “I want it”, mentality. Parents can lessen this by talking to their children about the things they do have. The holidays are a wonderful time to teach children about gratitude. Talking about the difference between wants and needs is also a good thing to begin at a young age. As most adults in our society still have a hard time deciphering the difference, don’t be surprised or discourage if your child still wants a lot. Beginning the conversation will help them grasp it later in life. If your children are older, you might also help them understand that commercial is how advertisers and large companies get consumers to buy products.
It is important to try to keep your children on their regular schedule. An anticipated routine can help reduce your child’s feeling of disruption caused by holiday activities. Your children’s regular eating and sleeping schedules should be kept as close to normal as possible. We all know that when children get hungry and tired they become grumpy and tend to misbehave. Remember to also be consistent in your expectations and consequences. Children who are allowed to break rules during holidays without consequences will learn that they can during these times.
Listening to overworked and stressed adults can give children mixed messages about the holiday spirit. Adults can get wrapped up in the commercialism and lose sight of what is important during the holidays as well. To get yourself into the true holiday spirit, here are some things we recommend.
• Take time for yourself — You might have many people making demands of you. Remember, you are only human. Sometimes self-care is the best thing you can do. Others will benefit when you’re stress- free. Go for a long walk, get a massage or take time out to listen to your favorite music or read a new book. All of us need some time to recharge our batteries. By slowing down, you will actually have more energy to accomplish your goals.
• Volunteer — Many charitable organizations are also suffering due to the high demand of the holiday season. Find a local charity, such as a soup kitchen or a shelter where you and your family can volunteer. Also, giving your time in this way can help to put your own economic struggles in perspective.
• Have realistic expectations — No Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza or other holiday celebration is perfect. View inevitable missteps as opportunities to demonstrate flexibility and resilience. A lopsided tree or a burned brisket won’t ruin your holiday; rather, it will create a family memory. If your children’s wish list is outside your budget, remind them that the holidays aren't about expensive gifts.
• Remember what's important — The barrage of holiday advertising can make you forget what the holiday season is really about. When your holiday expense list is running longer than your monthly budget, scale back and remind yourself that great celebrations are made by loved ones, not store-bought presents, elaborate decorations or gourmet food.
• Seek support — Talk about your anxiety with your friends and family. Getting things out in the open can help you navigate your feelings and work toward a solution for your stress. If you continue to feel overwhelmed, consider seeing a professional such as a psychologist to help you manage your holiday stress.
Relax and enjoy the holidays with your children, childhood is a time for love and wonderment! Look through the eyes of your children to appreciate the magic of the holidays.
www.apa.org › Psychology Help Center