Christmas is a special time of the year filled with joy and reunions – with parties to host and attend, guests and visitors to catch up with and gifts to exchange. Not to mention the shopping trips, planning and preparing, holidays, getaways and day trips to enjoy.
Christmas can also be extremely stressful, exhausting and challenging – for kids and parents alike. Sometimes getting everything done so that the big day is ‘perfect’ can end up leaving you drained and your children filled with agitation.
To beat the blues and have everyone enjoying the season to its fullest, here are some approaches to keep Christmas as stress-free as possible for you and your family.
Firstly be aware of the signs of holiday stress in your children. Signs of holiday anxiety can include –
- Tears for seemingly minor reasons.
- Nervous behaviours such as nail biting and ?hair twirling.
- Physical complaints, such as stomach-aches, headaches, fatigue, diarrhea.
- Regression to younger behaviours – bed wetting, eating with hands.
- Withdrawal from friends or siblings.
- Any behaviour that your child doesn’t normally do could be a sign of Christmas anxiety.
Helping family members, especially children, cope with holiday stress involves knowing their personalities and limits. As their parent you are the expert in this. So when the anxiety hits, take a breath and a step back, and consider how you could best manage the situation.
Here are some of my suggested stress management tips for your family –
- Take children out of the spotlight during Christmas events at relatives’ or friends’ homes if they are feeling uncomfortable.
- Combine parties and get-togethers to reduce the time you spend partying.
- Stick with the routine as much as possible. Keep stressful holiday shopping and eating out to a minimum.
- Start preparing for Christmas early to avoid holiday anxiety.
- Ask your children what makes them feel better. Do they wind down with music, reading, spending time with you or playing with their friends, brothers or sisters? To help children calm down at Christmas, encourage them to do what they love often.
- Make sure your children and you are eating nutritious foods, drinking lots of water, and getting exercise and time outside – a antidote to holiday anxiety.
- Talk to your children about traditions and spirituality. If you have traditions, explain why they’ve stayed in your family. That sense of knowing why things are done this way will bring a sense of calm.
- Bring a favourite blanket, pillow or stuffed animal (or other age appropriate familiar thing) if you’re staying with family or going away over the holidays. A bit of home always helps to be more relaxed.
- Cope with your own holiday anxiety. The less holiday stress you feel, the more relaxed your children will be.
- Volunteer at a charity, kids’ hospital, community centre or a cause (big or small) that is meaningful for you. Volunteering at this time of year brings a sense of contribution, satisfaction and involvement – and as the whole family gets involved there will be a moment where you all feel a connection to the true spirit of Christmas.
- Lighten the mood with funny movie marathon days, park afternoons and cozy chats with hot chocolate treats – just getting out or staying in having fun together and laughing to let go of any built up stress.
Remember that with all its sparkle, expense and lists – the point of Christmas is togetherness, laughter, sharing, connecting and love. I often like to think of a word to represent my Christmas time. This theme keeps me on a calm purposeful course without getting caught up in the hype of shoulds, coulds, must haves and must dos. This year my word is appreciation.
What is your word this year?