ENJOYING THE HOLIDAYS WITH YOUR CHILD WITHOUT STRESS
The holiday season is upon us and most of you dream of family gatherings filled with warmth and generosity. You want to make happy holiday memories with your child. However, many holiday traditions are stressful for children as your child’s routine becomes completely changed. School is often out and there is no predictable rhythm of the day. Meals, naps, and bedtimes are often disrupted as relatives travel and gather together. The overstimulation, the unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells can lead to behavior problems, especially with children who are sensitive, reactive, or inflexible.
Here are a few tips about how to handle the holidays gracefully and gratefully:
1. Plan ahead. Since your child’s routine will be disrupted, figure out how to structure the days for the least negative impact on your family’s typical schedule. For instance, if your child goes to bed at 7:30pm, don’t do dinner at 8pm.
2. Be realistic. According to your child’s age, set developmentally appropriate expectations. How long do you think your child can actually sit nicely? If you want your child to have a conversation with an aunt he sees only twice a year, then practice with her that conversation in advance.
3. Talk to your child about the upcoming changes. Explain to your child what your plans are for the holidays. Give her details before you go to a gathering or you travel to another state or country.
4. Avoid overscheduling. As fun as it may seem, limit the holiday parties and activities, so that your child does not get overwhelmed. Too many obligations can lead to stress and anxiety.
5. Involve your child in the process. Invite your child to help you shop or cook. Give your child an activity that will boost her self-esteem and make her feel you are on the same team. Remember to praise her for being helpful and responsible.
6. Remind your child -and yourself – what the holidays are really about. It is this special time of the year that you take to appreciate your family and relatives. It is this special time of the year when you care deeply about and feel gratitude for your loved ones.
As the holidays unfold and you start to make plans, it helps to think about what your child will need in order to feel happy and grateful. Share with your child your expectations and listen to her feelings and concerns.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.