We are expected to be happy, merry, and joyful during the holidays. Yet for many families, the expectations this time of year can cause significant stress and anxiety – not just for you as an adult, but for your children, too.
It is important to remember as you rush around trying to create the perfect holiday home, buy the perfect gifts for everyone, and make the perfect holiday meal, that your children are watching. And, if you turn the holidays into a stressful production, that is how your children will also view the holidays. Children reflect, model, and take their cues from their parents.
On the other hand, this is the perfect opportunity for you as the parent to model for your children what this time is about: bonding, togetherness, giving, and making memories.
Remember: the holidays are one of the few times in the year that the whole world conspires to love.
During this time, watch your children for typical signs of stress, which may include:
- Wetting the bed, and other forms of returning to regressive childhood
- Changes in eating habits
- Changes in grades and school behavior
- Crankiness, because they’re too tired from rushing about from place to place
A healthy way to move past feelings of stress, depression, and sadness is to use that energy in a positive and constructive manner. You teach your children to activate their generous sense of compassion and goodwill by focusing on others. Acting on these feelings through random acts of kindness, you and your children can reduce stress and replace it with the warm glow of satisfaction.
My top tips for making the holidays less stressful:
- Simplify your life: make your To-Do list, cut out anything unnecessary and find shortcuts with meals and other holiday preparations.
- Only accept personal holiday invitations that you are honestly excited to attend. Politely decline the rest.
- Remember to de-stress: take a warm bath with candlelight and aromatherapy as a time-out gift to yourself.
- Take your children to volunteer at a shelter together as a family.
- Gather old coats, blankets, food and donate them to families in need.
- With your children, make personalized gifts for friends and relatives with the recipients in mind. For example, if Aunt Sally likes the seashore, draw her a picture of the seashore.
- Talk with family elders about how they celebrated the holidays in their youth. Life is a collection of memories, and children love to hear about the happy and fun experiences that make up the moments of their family history.
The memories you make with your children are what life is about, and your relationships with others are the key to those memories. By simplifying your life and managing expectations during this time of the year, you can focus on what is really important: family, community, compassion, and togetherness.
By taking the focus off the hustle and bustle and the commercialism of the holidays, we help reduce the stress in our lives and, in turn, help our children learn to enjoy a stress-free holiday season full of meaning and memories.