The Christmas season is full of wonderful things. Many of us will spend time with loved ones we don’t get to see often, enjoy wonderful food, and otherwise celebrate the holidays.
It’s a fun time for kids as well, at least until it isn’t. Yes, presents, candy, classroom celebrations, and decorations are fun, but the season is also a time of:
- Sensory overload
- Disrupted schedules
- Unrealistic Expectations
- Moodiness (In Adults And Kids Alike)
- Unfamiliar Surroundings
When it comes to children who have sensory issues or anxiety, these stressors can create seemingly unmanageable situations. Fortunately, there are nine things that parents of sensitive children can do to help.
Give Kids an Itinerary
Unpredictability and sudden changes in daily routines can really throw kids off. They get settled into one activity, then suddenly it’s time to pile into the car to head out to do something else. For kids that crave a schedule, that’s quite upsetting.
One thing that can help is to provide kids with a daily schedule. Older kids are capable of reading the family calendar or using a timeline that you jot down on paper. Younger kids can be given pictures that guide them through the days’ plans. Also, the Christmas season is a perfect time to use social stories.
Provide a Safe Space to Vent
As adults, we frequently vent to one another about the stresses and annoyances we face during the holiday season. Children often need a similar outlet. Unfortunately, rather than providing them with a sympathetic ear and emotional support, adults often respond with negativity and lecturing.
Keep in mind that annoying relatives, long waits, noisy crowds, and other disturbances or just an irritating and upsetting to kids as they are adults. Letting them vent their frustrations can help them stay in control of their emotions and let them know that you are supportive of them.
Know When to Leave Them Home
Not every event needs to be a Command Performance for your kids. If they are overstimulated in overscheduled, Sometimes the best medicine is simply a relaxing night at home. If an event is too crowded, noisy, or stressful for them that’s just a formula for misery. Give them a break and yourself as well. Stay in as a family, or hire a sitter.
Keep Routines And Rituals Where You Can
It’s pretty difficult Not To Break routine during the holidays, but there are a few things you can do to keep things reasonably on track. Make it a priority to keep mealtimes, naps, and bedtimes on the usual schedule. If nothing else at least try to maintain some same rituals such as reading before bed.
Maintaining routines makes children feel safer. It also helps them transition back to a normal schedule when the holidays are over. This is especially helpful for children to attend school. In fact, children who attend school should spend some quiet time each day reading or working on projects.
Older kids can even work extra credit writing assignments. They can even check out reviews on writing services to find proofreading and citation help.
Intentionally Schedule Downtime
Give your kids and yourself a break each day. Plan for 30 minutes to an hour to nap, watch TV, read, even spend some time surfing the internet. You’ll likely see moods and behaviour improve when everybody gets a bit of time to themselves.
If your Christmas holiday is going to be particularly busy, you might consider scheduling an entire day off from holiday events and activities. Sleep In, watch movies, order pizza, and enjoy an obligation-free day.
Give Kids a Physical Outlet
Exercise reduces stress. It also gives kids an outlet for all of that excess energy that overstimulation can create. The holidays are exciting, but they’re also full of times when kids are expected to sit and wait. Make sure they have some way to let that energy out and get rid of some stress. Here are a few things to try:
- Go outside and play in the snow.
- Find parks and restaurants with indoor play areas on long car trips. You have to make stops anyway and may as well give kids some active time.
- Take the family on an evening walk.
- Hit a trampoline park or skating rink.
- Play music and throw an impromptu dance party.
Model Perspective And Stress Management
Your stress, impatience, and short temper could be contagious. If your kids see the holidays getting to you, that’s stressful for them. They’re also going to model your behaviour when it comes to dealing with their own stress.
Acknowledge your feelings when you are overwhelmed. Let your kids see you take breaks, handle aggravation graciously, and take good care of yourself.
Teach Kids Mindfulness And How Anxiety Works
Even fairly young kids can benefit from mindfulness. This is a very simple form of meditation that encourages people to be aware of their own feelings and surroundings while maintaining control of their behaviours and choices. It’s been scientifically proven to help people deal with stressful situations.
You can also help your kids simply by educating them about stress and anxiety. If they know what causes it, what it feels like, and how to prevent it, they feel more in control. That leads to fewer ‘meltdowns’ and crisis situations.
HALT stands for ‘Hungry Angry Lonely And Tired’. Each of the things alone can make kids stressed and prone to meltdown. Combined, that’s a recipe for disaster. For younger kids, the best approach is to avoid these situations altogether. Make sure they don’t go too long between meals or snacks, be supportive when they are frustrated and make sure they have time to rest.
For older kids, teach them the HALT acronym. When you see that they are out of sorts, remind them about HALT and ask them if they are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Then, work with them to come up with a solution.
Christmas is a stressful time for kids and adults alike. Use these tips to make things as stress-free as possible, and give kids some strategies to manage their feelings when things are difficult for them.
Some other great techniques for staying calm during the Christmas period can be found here:
Daniela McVicker is a freelance writer, blogger, and a contributor to Grabmyessay
She graduated from Durham University and has an MA in psychological science. Her passion is to travel and finding ways to enrich students’ learning experience.