Holidays bring heightened emotions and challenges and your kids know when you are stressed out. According to the American Psychology Association (APA), thirty-nine percent of America’s children feel sad and worried when their parents are stressed. Families can practice using downtime to maintain balance and reconnect with their children.
Tips to reduce stress and increase Christmas joy:
1. Keep a number of Christmas hats and jingle bells, antlers, small instruments and elf shoes (yes elf shoes!) in a nearby open container. Creative fun for kids and for adults! Do I hear spontaneous music and laughing?
2. Entertaining can create chaos and stress for the host and for their children, who are often over stimulated in the party environment. Consider having smaller gatherings rather than one big blow out.
3. Give children age appropriate cooking or decorating assignments to help make the holiday joyful and memorable. Involving children can create cherished memories and strengthens family bonds.
4. Introduce relaxation techniques to your family. Employ positive statements each day such as, I am calm, I am happy and I am grateful. Try taking turns saying something positive at mealtime.
5. Get your child used to the word “NO” prior to any family get together, party, or trip. Trying it out on an airplane for the first time is not advised.
6. Be mindful of your child’s eating schedule. Preparing a small meal or healthy snack before heading to a dinner party or waiting on line to see Santa can be all you need to head off a holiday melt down.
7. Schedule age appropriate shopping excursions. Do take your children shopping when you are going to one particular store to look for a gift that they will enjoy helping you to find. Gift shopping should be a relaxing and bonding time with your child. Think child friendly stores!
8. Demonstrate relaxation techniques to your children. When you feel your stress or anger levels increasing, focus on your breathing. Tell your children what you are doing and encourage them to join you. Share how good it feels to be still for a moment during a busy day!
9. Familiarize children with unfamiliar relatives prior to a family reunion or get together. Take time to view photos of Aunt Mary and Uncle Jim with children so that they are more comfortable when they meet them at a party or social gathering.
10. Be aware that continuous social interaction can be exhausting and stressful for children. Allow for breaks from holiday visitors. Take your kids out to the park or a movie without the entire entourage of cousins, aunts, and uncles.
11. Pay attention to bedtime transition periods. When the house if full of people it is difficult for children to go from full throttle to sleeping peacefully without a settling down period. Spend at least 30 minutes allowing your children to wind down. Read a book, take a bubble bath or sit and talk in a quiet space. Exchange foot rubs and use this time to bond with your child.
12. Empower children by introducing them to stress and anger management techniques. If they are angry or have had their feelings hurt, create visualizations that allow them to release tense feelings. Putting your feelings into bubbles and watching them float away can be an easy, fun and effective technique.
Lori Lite, founder of Stress Free Kids is an author, parenting expert and certified children’s meditation facilitator. Follow Lori on Twitter and Facebook.