As parents, we often overestimate the impact this season has on us as we find ourselves busy organizing family, work, and the practical aspects of family holidays. But we must also find time to consider our children and how we can reduce their stress at this beautiful time of the year! My Mind News has five practical tips that can help.
Why is it essential to be proactive in supporting our children?
The statistics globally are alarming. Post-pandemic, children’s stress levels are at an all-time high. The World Health Organisation estimates that approximately 20% of children and adolescents have a mental health condition.
Suicide is now one of the leading causes of death in 15 to 29-year-olds. The UK government found that in 2022, 18% of children aged 7 to 16 had a probable mental disorder. In 2021, the Mental Health Foundation reported that 50% of chronic mental illnesses start before 14 years of age.
Five practical tips on how to support children during the holiday season
We all must take a more proactive approach and be aware that children are not immune to feeling stressed during holidays, despite our best endeavors to make this a magical time of the year for them. Here are some tips to consider.
1. Be aware of your stress and manage it
Be self-aware, recognize what triggers your stress, and predict this before it overwhelms you. You need to schedule time for your self-care. As a parent, you can’t fill anyone else’s cup without having your cup filled first.
Make sure you get enough sleep and spend quality time in nature, even for 10 minutes a day. Be mindful and present, and intentionally soak up the holiday atmosphere and season. Taking a few minutes deliberately to soak up the atmosphere or listening to Christmas music will help you stay grounded.
2. Allow your child to express their feelings
Children can feel over-excited and tired as they are not following their routine, which can overwhelm them. If your child needs extra support or wants to express their feelings, encourage them to tell you how they feel. Help the child to label this feeling.
The simple act of a parent helping a child to acknowledge and label a feeling is very grounding for the child and parent. It will also help a child to understand and deal more effectively in the long term with their emotions.
3. Spend time together as a family
Families need to spend quality time together to relax and regroup. Make sure you set aside time to watch a movie, be creative, play games, go to the park or visit the Christmas lights. Activities such as these often-become holiday traditions.
4. Physical activity
Ensure your child isn’t confined inside and encourage them to get lots of physical activity playing outdoors or dancing indoors. Even during lengthy car journeys, take breaks and let children get a good run around. Physical activity is essential for a child’s physical and emotional wellbeing.
5. Manage expectations
Take some time to let your kids know what the plans are for Christmas, what you need them to be aware of, and how they can help. Some parents like to have a detailed schedule, while others like to make children aware of one or two key events.
Whatever you decide, managing children’s expectations helps. If they need to visit a family friend or elderly relative, then make it clear why it is essential and set expectations of the journey time and what they can do to make it more enjoyable.
Likewise, gently manage expectations around gifts and what they should or should not expect. This will help avoid disappointment and prevent children from getting stressed and overwhelmed.
Please share other tips that help you manage and/or reduce your children’s holiday stress levels in the comment box below.