Tips for reducing holiday stress for kids and families

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The holiday season is right around the corner and you know what that means — lots of gatherings, delicious food, late nights and, of course, excitement. We know that the holidays can be times of great joy and shared positive memories with our loved ones, but it can also be times of great stress and frustration, especially for children. With a little extra preparation and planning, families can work together to ensure that everyone enjoys this time together as you create wonderful holiday memories with less tears with these tips.

Tips for Creating Stress-Free Holidays for Kids and Families

Arrive prepared to prevent boredom

Consider a little extra preparation by bringing activity bags when you visit friends and relatives, which will aid in decreasing the dreaded “I’m bored” syndrome. By having your child pick a certain bag they want to use and choosing the activities, gives them a sense of control and aids in building sustained interest in the items. The activity bag can consist of your child’s favorite toys, coloring activities, books, travel board games, hand-held devices and music.

It is important to still encourage socialization, so you can even bring activities that are more socially based. Since many hand-held video games tend to be more of an independent activity, I suggesting waiting before you allow your child to use them.

Make expectations clear ahead of time

Your children are never too old to be reminded of the rules and behavior expectations, such as manners, before going out to shop or when visiting other’s homes. It is important to involve your children in these discussions versus lecturing. Ask them for their thoughts on how they think they should behave. You may even want to consider writing the rules down so you and your child can refer back to them when needed.

Stay organized for easy transitions

Using a “family” calendar during the holiday season can help to keep everyone organized. Calendars help to prepare and remind your children to the days when transitions are to take place and indicate any changes in their regular routine. You can use pictures, stickers or text to highlight all events. Try to refer to the calendar often, perhaps nightly.

Don’t be afraid to use a good old fashion to-do list. Checklists are a great visual support used to help organize, sequence and prioritize tasks. An event that is placed on the “family” calendar can be broken down into smaller, manageable steps on checklist. This provides clear expectations as to what needs to be done and in what order.

For example:
Visiting Uncle Sam and Aunt Edna
Make your bed
Feed the cat
Pack three toys in your backpack
Pack a snack

Get creative with your approach

Write a story with your child about an upcoming event. This is a creative way to describe and encourage social understanding of various social situations and rules around expectations. Choose a quiet time to write the story with your child or read to them if you have created one on your own.  Here is an example of a short story about a child who gets upset when there are no more presents to open.

During the holidays I usually get presents.
It’s fun to open my presents.
When I open my presents there is going to be a last present.
After I open the last present there will probably be NO MORE presents.
This is O.K.
Now I can play with my new toys and that will be fun.
(Gray, 2000)

Keep your days structured

As much as we all need some down time, it is still important to have structure. Try to structure your days with fun filled games and activities that the whole family will enjoy. This often allows families to re-connect and helps to open the doors for positive communication. An inexpensive way to have fun as a family is to take advantage of what your city has to offer. This can be done as a large family event or perhaps just mom and son time.

Bundle up and get outdoors! Winter outdoor activities can be a lot of fun and is a great way to burn off steam, sneak in some exercise and enjoy overall family fun.

Get the kids involved in making traditions

Children of all ages can get involved and help during the holiday season. Whether its wrapping presents, signing cards, baking, decorating or providing input on gift ideas, there is something for everyone to participate in and is a wonderful way to spend time together and have them feel included. Capture family traditions and create lasting memories by keeping a family journal or scrapbook.

Don’t forget self care

You need to spend time taking care of yourself! Often we are running around and doing things for other people which can lead to feelings of stress. Taking the time to carve out some me-time is critical. Whether it is watching a favorite movie once everyone is in bed or taking a bubble bath, you need to remember that putting yourself first will benefit the whole family.

Remember, that the holiday season will be over before you know it, so why not reduce the stress and tears from others (and from yourself), by taking the time to actually enjoy this wonderful time of year.

This post was provided by Janet Arnold and Francine McLeod of Finding Solutions.

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This post was written by someone who we think has some pretty savvy ideas! We love sharing creative, informative and fun things form guest contributors!

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