3 methods for helping kids and teens manage holiday stress
The weather is getting colder, the days are getting shorter and the holiday decorations are already on sale at every major retailer. At the same time, stress is also starting to build. Families are starting to plan travel, decide who is hosting which holiday and beginning to budget for holiday gifts. There is no denying that the holidays are a stressful time for us all, but this season can be a particularly triggering time when it comes to mental health for kids and teens.
Even if children don’t share that they are stressed or feeling sad during the holiday season, we should acknowledge that they may be feeling this way. During this time of year, family is often synonymous with home; and when a child finds themselves spending more time at home than normal, their family situation is amplified. On top of that, schedules are often hectic during the holidays as they’re forced to navigate family gatherings, holiday parties, school commitments and more. To help ensure the holidays don’t have a negative impact, parents must make the extra effort to safeguard their child’s mental health.
Don’t Force Quality Time
The holidays can be busier than any other time of year, but they also present an opportunity to have a larger quantity of quality time with our children. Stopping, slowing down and making a concerted effort to be present can go a long way in helping a child feel safe and supported when they are stressed. We tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to create special family moments during the holidays. For example, the meal has to be just right, the gifts have to be perfect, even if a family is financially stressed and meeting all of these silent expectations put entire households on edge. That can be a tinderbox waiting for a spark and at times like this it is important to stop, slow down and be present for our kids.
Instead of striving to spend as much time with our kids as possible, because holiday time is “family time,” parents should seek to schedule dedicated time to connect with their children outside of the holiday hustle and bustle. The special moments we strive to experience with our kids during those forced “perfect” holiday moments will likely occur more naturally as a byproduct of the time we take to simply be present amongst our family.
Of course, as with all things in life, there must be balance. While parents should strive to spend time with their kids, it is possible that an extreme amount of time together may overstimulate kids and create a new form of stress. To keep that from happening, be sure you’re giving them the space and time needed to decompress so they can come back to the family refreshed and relaxed.
It doesn’t hurt to prepare for these moments by intentionally scheduling family time before the holidays hit. Start by doing this after dinner a few times a week. Ask your kids open ended questions about how they’re feeling ahead of the holidays, find out what helps them relax when they are stressed and use the time to practice being present and in the moment. Starting with a bit of practice can help make quality time much easier to achieve in the height of the holiday chaos.
Prepare Kids for the Day Before it Starts
Speaking of practicing and preparing, the holidays are a time when everything is amplified: love, frustration, loneliness and resentment among many other feelings. It is important to be aware of and take stock of your child’s triggers, insecurities and anxieties. After doing so, plan your family’s schedule accordingly. To do this, practice forecasting and front-loading for your children.
Post based on article by Tony Mosier, MFT