Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tips for reducing holiday stress for children

While the grownups hustle and bustle to prepare for the holidays, children often feel the stress their parents feel. Here are some useful tips on how to reduce the stress children may experience during the holidays:

1. Emphasize the reason for the season: If your family is celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, take advantage of this opportunity to slow things down a bit and teach them about the birth. If you celebrate Christmas for nonreligious reasons, explain the reasons you exchange gifts and spend time with family. This is a great time to help children learn about the family’s belief system and traditions from previous generations.
2. Maintain routine: All parents know about the inevitable meltdown that occurs when an eighteen month old is expected to sit on Santa’s lap two hours past their normal nap time. As much as possible try to keep meal and nap times at their normal times.
3. Make children little helpers: Of course it takes twice as long when a six year old wants to help wrap Grandpa’s present. However, in allowing your child to wrap that present he/she is now a part of the gift giving process and feels that they have helped you in some way. Children also love to help in the kitchen. Rinsing vegetables in the strainer, snapping green beans or making cookies are all child friendly activities.
4. Let them know the day’s agenda: Prepare your children for large crowds, long wait times, being at a coworkers home that the child may have never met or even just the fact that there will be three different family members they will visit that day.
5. Start or continue family traditions: Remind your child that last year they placed the star on top of the tree or that your father used to hold you up so that you could place the star. It is never too late to start a family tradition.
6. Bring comfort items: Allow children to bring their favorite blanket or stuffed animal. An unfamiliar home may not be child friendly, keep this in mind and pack toys that the children can play with.
7. Praise positive behavior: While this is a year round task, at the holidays it is very important to praise pro social behavior, use of manners and overall good behavior.
8. Role Model a positive attitude: If Mom or Dad doesn’t want to go Aunt Ruth’s house, the children will not want to go either. Express your joy and gratitude for the time to spend with friends and family and your children are more likely to do the same.
9. DO NOT OVERSCHEDULE: Children tire easily. Too many activities in one day is stressful for the entire family, especially infants and toddlers.

As we are now officially in the holiday season, remember to take time to enjoy the time off of work, the time spent with family and friends and the time to watch your child experience the magic of Christmas.
Jennifer Nadelkov, LMFT

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