Preparing your Family for the Holidays: Young Children and Stress

Posted on Posted in Child Psychology

According to the Mayo Clinic, preparing for the stress of the holidays can assist in avoiding a complete meltdown. Yet, what if the stress is not your own? Parents with young children may find that they can take care of themselves but struggle with the stress of their little ones this time of year. What can you do to prevent your child from combusting between Thanksgiving and New Year’s?

1. Plan, Plan, Plan

We all know that parenting experts tell us to prepare children for challenging transitions. We often do not, however, express the same amount importance with planning for transitions that may be more fun. Regardless if visiting your friends or family is a happy occasion, it represents a change from your typical schedule. Discussing these changes and preparing your children for what to expect can decrease everyone’s anxiety and dysregulation and increase the likelihood of an enjoyable experience. This may be especially important for divorced families. The more you can plan for the difficulties the more time you will have to enjoy your family during the holiday.

2. Avoid Overscheduling

There are many people to visit and many meals and gifts to share. Yet, you may have a child who simply is not capable of that much social interaction. Children who are more introverted will need some quiet time to recharge and building this into your holiday schedule can help prevent meltdowns. Setting your child up for success will also help build her self-esteem and confidence.

3. Excitement does not equal a Stress and Anxiety Free Child

Sometimes it can be tough to recognize the difference between joy and excitement and a child who is very emotionally and behaviorally dysregulated by stress. Take some extra time to watch your child during the holiday season and if you suspect that you child is acting a little bit more excited than you would suspect, institute a plan for a brief distraction from the activity. Even a 5-minute break can do wonders to help ground your child and teach her important skills to handle her own stress.

For more information on signs of holiday stress in children and how to help your child cope visit the American Psychological Association and Psychology Today.

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