How to keep kids' holiday stress at bay

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Holidays are meant to be a special and happy time for everyone, especially children. But the holiday season can also be a time of hustle and bustle that can lead to stress.

An article published by the American Academy of Pediatrics titled "Stress and Your Child" states, "Many parents believe that their school-age children are unaware of the stresses around them and are somehow immune to them. Yet children are very sensitive to the changes around them."

The holidays bring about changes in a number of different ways, such as additional shopping, baking, decorating and worrying about financial constraints. Parents may believe that they are the only ones to feel the stress of the holidays, but children feel it too.

Help your child beat holiday stress by following these tips:

  • Remember routines This is especially true for small children, but good advice for everyone in the family. During the holidays, children often find their routines are disrupted because of traveling, visiting family and friends, shopping, or getting presents. By trying to stick to normal routines, including sleep and nap schedules, you can help you and your child enjoy the holidays and reduce stress.
  • School vacation When your child is off school for the holidays, add a little structure to the day. Plan activities, such as playing board games, going to the movies, or sledding outside. Consider scheduling these activities so the whole family can have fun together.
  • Stay physically active It is easy this time of year to allow the TV and video games to become a "babysitter," but children who are stressed need physical activity and exercise more than visual stimulation. Winter does bring less daylight, which leads to more time indoors and less physical activity, but make an effort to get outdoors, even it if is for a little while.
  • Rest and relaxation Make sure everyone in the family gets plenty of sleep during the holidays. Holidays often bring about later bedtimes and/or irregular sleep schedules. Well-rested children will be happier when you need to take them to the mall or the grocery store for last minute items.
  • Eat healthy meals Eating right is a basic ingredient of the holiday wellness recipe. It may seem convenient in the rush of the holidays to grab fast food for dinner instead of sitting down to a home cooked meal. But if you think about all of the sugary holiday treats, it is better to make a quick meal and sit down as a family, than to eat fast food every night.
  • Family traditions Family traditions, especially during the holidays, offer great comfort and security for children when everything in their lives is being disrupted by the holiday season. By creating and establishing traditions, children have something to focus on other than just receiving gifts.

The holiday season is meant to be a special time shared with family and friends, not a time of stress and exhaustion. For more holiday tips, including toy safety, decorations, trees, lights, and food preparation, visit www.aap.org/advocacy/releases/novtips.cfm.