Managing Holiday Stress…

The busy holiday season is here already and you may get some unexpected visitors from children, such as difficult behaviours and indication of stress. With some advance planning and managing holiday triggers you can reduce some of the holiday stress and find some peace and joy

As much as kids love and get excited for the Winter Holidays, there can be high expectations followed by lots of disappointment, lack of routine and numerous opportunities for over-stimulation which can contribute to some “naughtier than nice” behaviours and tantrums. As a parent, the first thing you need to do is manage your own stress and negative triggers. Acknowledge and try to find healthy releases for your own emotional triggers and reactions, which can include:

• not being able to be with loved ones

• coping with the recent death of a loved one

• financial pressures

• taking on too much socially and or personally

• trauma from your own childhood around holidays

Take time to cope with your feelings and share them with someone who can listen without judgement. Be realistic about your holiday season expectations and find ways to slowdown and continue healthy habits like good nutrition, enough sleep, opportunities for exercise and time to reflect, relax and regroup. Learn to say “no” if your plate is too full. You may also try to temporarily set aside ongoing differences with family members or friends recognizing that they too might be suffering from the stress of the holidays.

Children need clear expectations for their behaviour at parties and family gatherings, and they also need some predictability in their routines if we want them to be able to cope. If your routine is going to be different from usual, communicate what the day will look like and what your child can expect. Try to keep a decent routine around sleep, eating and downtime each day so they can recharge and roll with the season’s many activities. Get them involved in helping to clean, decorate, bake, wrap gifts, shovel etc. which can create times for connection in all the chaos and extra work the holidays generate.  Don’t over program over the holidays.

Children need time to play outdoors, have un-structured playtime and time for one-on-one sharing with you. Watch your child’s cues and engage with them in a loving way before they get to a state of frustration, anger or hyperactivity. Do your best to listen to their feelings and support them in working through problems or challenges. Stay connected to your child by taking time out from a busy gathering to go to a private space to read, tell a story, or give a mini massage / cuddle or play cards. Role-play and coach them through any difficult interactions they may be having with friends or relatives. Recognise when they are overtired or “sugared out” and be prepared to decline to participate or leave early from a gathering or party if you have to. Don’t let the flurry of holiday activity distract you from connecting and protecting yourself and your child from holiday burn out.  Plan ahead, think positively and have a wonderful holiday season. One event, one day at a time….. Cheers, Joanne    Happy Holidays!

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