The Holidays can be a wonderful time for families, but it can also bring about stress. To help parents and caregivers deal with the demands of the season, we’ve provided a few strategies to help manage holiday stress and practice mindful parenting.
Keep things in perspective
The American Psychological Association provides a great tip for managing holiday stress – keep things in perspective. The APA recommends caregivers set realistic expectations for gift giving and holiday activities. The holidays routinely become expensive and time consuming. Society, social media, family and friends unknowingly place expectations upon parents and caregivers. The APA recommends using this season as an opportunity to teach kids about money and responsible spending. Find ways to enjoy the holidays but also remember caregivers don’t have to participate in every event or holiday tradition.
“Instead of trying to take on everything, we need to identify the most important holiday tasks and take small concrete steps to accomplish them.” – American Psychological Association
Take care of yourself
During stressful times, it is important to carve out moments to take care of yourself. Keeping our minds and bodies healthy puts us in a much better place to deal with stressful situations as they arise. One way to accomplish this is finding more opportunities to get fresh air and exercise. The APA recommends getting the family out together for a winter walk. Taking moments for physical activity can help both caregivers and children manage stress levels, improve quality of sleep, and improve our moods.
Practice mindful parenting
Children pick up on stress around them, especially the stress level of caregivers. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, it’s okay to say, “I’m having a big feeling right now.” Children are always learning from adults. Demonstrating to children that it’s okay to acknowledge feelings and take a moment to deal with them, gives children tools to use when they are also feeling stressed. Sesame Street in Communities recommends caregivers explain to children that grownups get overwhelmed, too. By stating feelings and explaining what is going on “I’m going to go stand in that corner and take ten deep breaths. That will help me to calm down so that I can help you,” caregivers are helping their own stress levels and those of the child.
Watching for signs of stress in children
Similar to adults feeling more stress around the holidays, children can as well. Be mindful that more frequent meltdowns can be kids’ way of coping with a lack of control over a situation. Too much anticipation and excitement over the holidays can be overwhelming for children. Find activities that help them feel calmer and in control of something, such as building with blocks, coloring, art projects, or a puzzle.
Incorporate breathing exercises into your day
Intentional breathing exercises can be a great way to bring down heart rate and help reduce strong reactions when we are stressed. Breathing exercises can be beneficial tools for both caregivers and children. Here is an article that goes over different methods for breathing: https://www.childrens.com/health-wellness/breathing-exercises-for-kids
Try to maintain routines when possible
Routines can bring a since of calm when life seems hectic. During the holidays, try to stick to normal routines as much as possible so when special events and activities do take place, it is easier to fall back into a routine when they are over.
Don’t forget about boundaries
The holidays are always a great time to remind caregivers and children to talk about boundaries. Respect a child’s right to say “no” when they do not want to be touched, including giving hugs and kisses, even to family members. This might seem hard around the holidays but parents can use the opportunity to tell friends and family members they are teaching their children about boundaries and not to be offended if a child passes on a hug.