The holidays can be a stressful time for families. Between the potential travel plans, the shift from regular routines, and trying to manage expectations, the holiday season isn’t always overflowing with joy. Read on for some stress-busting tips to help you and your family this holiday season.
- Lack of Routine
While many children will appreciate the break from school, others really thrive on the consistent routine it provides. Try to keep schedules as similar to normal to prevent holiday meltdowns. This means bedtimes, meal times, scheduled activity times etc. Try not to fall into the trap of letting sedentary time, like screen time, become a major part of the day. Make sure to get in some regular movement.
Long car rides, busy airports, hurrying from one relative’s home to the next are all familiar scenes around the holidays. In addition to breaking from routine, travelling during the holidays can be a trigger for stress. Long days, restless family members who would rather be anywhere else than strapped into a seat for long periods, and unfamiliar places all add to the stress. Plan ahead by providing your children with activities to do en route such as travel games, audio books, or colouring materials to help keep them occupied. Take the time to explain to your children beforehand what to expect during the travel period, so that they are informed and prepared.
If your family exchanges gifts during the holidays, it can be a time of excitement, gratitude, and delight. It can also be a time of unmet expectations, jealousy, and entitlement. Receiving presents should not be the main focus of the holidays and it is important for children to know and appreciate what the holidays should be about. Family, togetherness, joy, sharing experiences etc. Try to instill in your children a sense of gratitude. If you have a child that experiences jealousy of their siblings, try having one gift be for the whole family (like a new board game for example) and take the time to experience the gift all together.
- Unfamiliar Extended Family Members
If you have family members spread around the country, or the globe for that matter, the holidays may be a time of reconnecting. This means that those distant cousins you cherish but don’t see very often may as well be complete strangers to your children who have only met them a handful of times. If your child is particularly shy or anxious around new people, the fact that these well-intentioned individuals are actually family members, does not always ease the worries. To help your child adjust, try finding pictures online of these family members to help familiarize your child to them.
- Too Many Activities
The holidays are great opportunities to try new activities and soak up the holiday cheer. Decorating gingerbread houses, caroling, volunteering, ice skating, the list goes on. Taking advantage of the opportunities is a good alternative to too much unstructured time or screen time; however, down time is important! The constant on-the-go from one activity to another as a result of overbooking yourself can wind up in meltdowns. We all need time to decompress. Schedule in some time to read, cuddle by the fire, or put on a movie and just relax.
- Not Asking for Help
The holidays are you and your family to celebrate how you please. Don’t stress yourself out trying to make every detail perfect. Letting go of how you think the holidays should be and just enjoy the passing days. Any number of things can crank up the stress dial and leave you unable to relax. In this case reach out. Talk to a trusted friend or family member about what might cause you stress or worries. Remember to share the duties! Try having a pot-luck meal or round robin dinner. Divide up chores such as wrapping, shopping, cleaning and cooking. It’s everyone’s job to make the holidays festive and fun, not just yours. If you are seeing a regular counselor or therapist, ask for some holiday de-stressing strategies a few weeks prior to when times get hectic so that you can be prepared. Treat yourself, book that massage!
Regardless of how you celebrate, we wish you and your family a happy holiday season with as little stress as possible.