The holiday season is often filled with joy, love, and cherished moments with family and friends. However, it can also be a time of stress and overwhelm, especially for children and their families
This is because so many things are happening, such as entertaining family, traveling, and shopping for gifts. As a result, finances can become strained, and the workplace can cause added pressure on parents.
So it is no surprise that kids get stressed out during the holidays, too.
With routines changing constantly and expectations high, stress can cause children to act out or develop destructive behaviors. However, there are ways to circumvent and prevent and reduce the holiday stress for children this coming holiday season.
6 Ways to Reduce Stress for Kids and Families During the Holidays
Try to Keep Regular Routines
While it can be challenging with different events and shopping trips, keep your routines relatively the same.
Children tend to do better when they have predictable and familiar ways, even when sleeping. In addition, routines are important for children to provide comfort.
Try using these free printable calendars for kids to help them stay a part of the routines and feel prepared for changes like holiday breaks or different childcare.
You might be tempted to allow them to stay up later during a school break, but it can mess with their habits. And, they probably will still get up at the same time they do every day, meaning they get less sleep overall.
Also, try to keep all mealtimes around the same time as well.
While the structure is vital, you can still be open to some changes. Just be aware of how many and when these changes are happening, and ensure that they are not negatively affecting your children somehow.
For example, if you are traveling during the season, you should bring a sense of familiarity for your children, such as toys or books, and also work to calm and quiet them down before bedtime, wherever you are.
Keep Children Active
Now, it may sound counterproductive to keeping routines the same, but you should also work to keep your children active. Believe it or not, movement and working out are great ways to manage stress, especially to reduce stress for kids during the holidays.
For example, yoga poses and other exercises are great ways to relax and calm children feeling high-strung.
In addition, you can involve your children in some stress-reducing hobbies that will keep them occupied and feeling happy.
There are plenty of opportunities to promote and release those endorphins rather than sitting in front of the television or playing on a gaming console or tablet all day.
An example might be just taking simple walks outside, baking cookies together, and having craft time creating fun ornaments, paintings, or drawings. You can also play games together, read books, or enroll your child in piano classes as a means to get their brains focused and concentrated on alternate tasks.
Music is a great stress-reducer, so music lessons are one of the best options. In addition, finding fun things that are engaging to do for your children and creating fun activities that you can do together are great ways to occupy your children and help keep them stress-free.
Here’s an awesome list of other free ideas to entertain kids when you have them at home for longer breaks!
Create Realistic Expectations
Help your children understand that the holiday season doesn’t have to be perfect. Set realistic expectations, and let them know that it’s okay if things don’t go exactly as planned. Emphasize the importance of spending quality time together rather than striving for perfection.
Also, set expectations for how many and what type of gifts children may be receiving. With long lists and constant commercials surrounding our kiddos, they may have high hopes to get everything they’ve been dreaming of.
Consider teaching your children about budgeting, money, prices, and more as you go out and about shopping during the season. Let them know what a reasonable amount of gifts would be and talk about scenarios of how they may feel when they get their presents.
Then, be sure to stress the importance of quality time and experiences. Enjoy your time together and make memories with outings or special activities if you can.
Manage Your Own Stress with Some Self Care
As parents, we are an example for children, whether our own kids or someone else’s. We should be mindful that we are still role models, and they can sense and ascertain when we are feeling blue, anxious, or stressed out.
Take time to practice self-awareness and sense when things are feeling overwhelming or too much. Take breaks as frequently as you need to get some fresh air, send the kids to go outside and play, or breathe and count to ten so that you don’t blow up in front of your child.
You should not stretch yourself too thin over the holidays to create that “perfect” experience for your family.
Plan ahead and prioritize things, create trigger words with your spouse so that they can let you know when you are starting to act out, and work to know when situations are more than what you can handle so that you can effectively take action to remove yourself and regroup.
Try some of these helpful self care routines to add into your day in the morning, evening and at bedtime. Integrate them with your kids to help reduce stress even more.
Help Your Children Recognize their Feelings
If you can tell that the holiday season creates added pressure or stress for your child, you must help them manage it.
Their expectations are high, and they are feeling all of the excitement that comes with the time of year, but sometimes that can also affect their well-being, from not getting enough sleep to having all-out meltdowns.
It is a great idea to help your child manage their expectations about the holidays so that they don’t expect too much or overwhelm themselves.
Letting them know what kinds of presents to expect so that they don’t get disappointed and guiding them in methods to express their feelings calmly will go a long way to help keep emotions or situations from escalating to the point of a meltdown or.
Use some pre-teaching techniques to keep kids mindful of their emotions and come back down to a calm state when emotions do run high. Find some quiet, calming activities or crafts to have ready for when those moments do arise.
Create New Traditions and Laugh Often
Part of the magic surrounding the holiday season is the ability to come together as a family and build upon traditions and make new ones together and have a lot of fun in the process.
The holidays shouldn’t be considered stressful, so work towards shifting your mindset to find the joy in things. You should stay open to changes and focus on the precious, meaningful moments. Laughter is a scientifically proven way to reduce stress for kids and adults alike, so find humor and laugh as much as possible.
For example, maybe you always baked holiday cookies together, but you have a very young child who is not yet ready for the responsibility of helping out in the kitchen. So instead, allow your child to be with you and watch you from their highchair, possibly keeping them occupied with holiday-style music while you bake.
There are plenty of things you want to do during this time, so make fun a priority in every one of them. Use this fun and laughter to help relieve any built up stress your kids may carry.
Encourage gratitude by discussing what your family is thankful for during the holiday season. This practice can shift the focus from materialism to appreciating the love and togetherness that the holidays represent.
Find Joy in Helping Others
Another excellent example of finding joy in the season is to focus on the importance of helping others who maybe are not as fortunate.
Have your children do things like donate to a toy drive or drop off gently used items and clothes to a shelter, perhaps even sponsor a child in need for Christmas and go shopping and wrap the gifts together.
Help your children see that giving is the more important facet of the holiday season, rather than focusing on all other stressful aspects.
When they see how great it feels to give and help others, they will gain the best perspective and incredible memory of the holidays while releasing any stress they might have harbored.
It’s essential to come together, give back, and bring joy to others to help reduce stress for your kids and yourself through the whole season.