Holidays are a great time to bond with the family and make good memories. No one can deny the fact that it’s during these holidays only we get to meet the extended family and friends after a long time and there would be numerous parties to be attended to. So everyone looks forward to the next holiday season. But there would a small percentage of families who dread the holidays, due to the additional demands these holidays would put on their kids. The holiday season can become a balancing act of walking on a thin rope balancing their kid’s needs and also the family, and social demands. This blog discusses a few used and tried tips to make the holidays stress-free for those kids.
Why are Holidays Stressful for Kids?
For some introverted kids, meeting the extended family is the number one stressor. For some other kids with sensory processing kids the crowded rooms, the smell, decor, food, and anything could cause them to topple over their balance.
Even otherwise, the normal routines would always be disrupted during holidays. Kids generally thrive with routines, and any disturbance to these routines will become stressful to the kids. Coupled with that, the high intake of sweets, colas, and fast foods will cause some stress in the kids, which can result in the form of stomachaches or body pains. The bedtimes could go wacky and the kids might have to share their bed with the visiting cousins and friends. This would add additional stress to them.
Kids are also observant lot, and they pick up the cues from parents. They pick up from our stress and tiredness as we stretch ourselves to make the picture perfect or Instagrammable festive decorations and feasts. We also should restrain ourselves from spreading ourselves thin and prepare for making more time out for family bonding and connections.
All the different holiday traditions during Diwali, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukka can cause as much distress to the kids as they are supposed to bring the joy and sparkles in them. Especially in the post-pandemic world, kids are experiencing social anxiety, getting stressed over the rituals, and also missing their near or dear ones whom they have lost during the pandemic.
Last but not the least, the excessive commitments, burdens imposed on the kids by the family and friends can also cause severe stress in them. The casual rhyme of “Being Naughty or Nice” can cause meltdowns in them. The pressure of acting nice and all dressed up, and performing in front of friends and family would add a lot of pressure in their little minds.
So, this blog provides a few tried and tested results in identifying and managing holiday stress or anxiety in kids
How to identify the Holiday Stress/Anxiety Symptoms in Kids?
As every child is unique so would be his/her ways to manage their stress and anxiety. But, the common behaviors when seen in the kids we can easily identify that they are the triggers for the holiday stress and anxiety meltdowns.
- Irritability and clinginess to parents
- Continuous anger outbursts
- Excessive usage of gadgets or books (in some cases) as a means of avoidance
- Not interested in taking part of any activities or isolating themselves from the festivities
- Excessive fears or meltdowns
- Reporting other physical problems, like stomachaches, ear pains, headaches, dizziness and body pains
So, the parents have to keep the above symptoms in mind and start providing coping mechanisms or tips to have stress-free holidays with the kids.
Coping Strategies for the holiday stress and anxieties
My son gets stressed out during every Diwali season due to the loud noises from crackers. The cheerful and outgoing ever active boy would turn into a scary cat during this Diwali season every year. So, here are a few tips and coping strategies that we use with my boy, and am sharing the top 5 among them.
1. Accept their feelings:
The First and foremost thing as a parent we need to understand and accept is the kid’s feelings and anxieties are very much their own and can’t be hidden or taken for granted as they are not our own. Once the child understands that we are able to accept their anxieties and fears with an open mind are there for them to support them through this phase, then the child would be willing to travel the path in overcoming them. So start having a candid discussion to understand their feelings about the forthcoming holidays with open-ended questions.
Ex: Instead of asking ” Are you anxious about the holidays?” try asking “What do you think of forthcoming holidays?”
Provide the child the time and options to open up their feelings and discuss them with us.
2. Role Play:
As an adult, we might be having a lot of suggestions for the kids to come out of their stress and anxiety. But their minds will not be in a position to think rationally and hence we can see the meltdowns instead of action from those kids. Hence, role-playing ahead would always provide the tools and seeds that the kids can use to chew upon and reflect before the actual event happens. This activity is one of the best tools that we can provide our kids to come out of tricky situations, as it reinforces the concepts to come out of anxieties and fears every time we do the roleplay. I had seen it work with my boy as well.
Ex: You wear your child’s hat and enact his anxieties and fears and let the child wear the parent or supportive adult hat in this role play. I and my kid always interchange our roles whenever I have to get some point across to him.
3. Offer them Choices
Instead of forcing every small thing on them, give some control to the kids. By giving them control of the not-so-important things, you would provide the comfort to the child that he is also part of the festivals and traditions. But you need to set up the expectations about the important rituals that the kids have to attend irrespective of their state of mind and that they don’t have the choice. That way, they would be prepared upfront as to which are the things that they can’t avoid and be better prepared than ourselves.
Ex: What to wear, what to eat, or how to calm himself down, how to decorate the house, etc.
As a word of caution, don’t make everything small thing an important part of the festival rituals. As you know about the child, try to use the shortcuts or cut some unnecessary rituals to provide comfort to the kids. Instead of skipping everything with a wailing kid, it would be more fun and meaningful to attend one or two most important rituals with a happy kid, isn’t it?
4. Try to maintain the routine and schedules
Even during busy festivals and holidays, try to maintain the routines as much as possible. Especially the sleep time and the food timings. Lack of sleep and food are the foremost triggers for most of the meltdowns in kids. So when we can keep an eye on them and follow them the at least half the meltdowns could be avoided and we can have stress-free holidays along with kids. Also, provide them multiple breaks with their favorite toys or books or even gadgets to unwind amidst all the festive chaos.
5. Create a Comfort kit
We can involve even the kids in this activity and prepare the comfort kit that they can carry during the holiday season. Having their own comfort kit works as the anchoring point and will make the kids wait for the stress-free holidays with their newfound treasure. I got this idea last year from a fellow blogger and implemented it immediately. So, my child’s comfort kit contains the following:
- Noise cancelling headphones
- Fidget Spinner
- Comfort foods like chocolates and chips
- Sensory bottle with the snow flakes and glitter
- Soothing music or doing some yoga
- Some to-do activities to divert their attention like (coloring pages, puzzles, books and lastly gadgets to watch movies)
- Essential Oils like Lavendar and Rosemary reduces the stress. So we use them in every room during the holidays and even a drop on his clothes.
After attending the Emotional Intelligence course, my child has learned some breathing techniques, which he is already practicing hard for this Diwali.
Please do remember that holidays come once or twice a year and it’s easier to convert them into stress-free holidays for kids if we just take some time out and provide them the required support. If it’s not done and we think that the kids are just acting up and they would grow on their own out of all those anxieties and fears, then we are setting up the stage for kids to become emotionally scarred for life. If we want to provide an emotionally healthy childhood to our kids, then we need to be present fully and provide our support to overcome their anxieties and fears. You can read this article to handle the general anxiety issues in your child.
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