Monday, December 21, 2009

Tips for Parents: Handling Holiday Stress

With winter break fast approaching, it's important to remember that this time of year can be stressful for both parents and children. Children who experience significant stress over the holidays - due to travel, family situations, or even the normal hustle and bustle of the season - are less likely to enjoy their vacations, and less likely also to be well-rested and prepared for their return to school in January. With this in mind, our Student Services department has compiled a list of the following ten tips to help parents minimize potential sources of holiday stress. We hope you find them useful, and we wish you a very happy (and stress-free!) winter break.
  1. Watch for signs of stress in your children, such as unexplained tears, nervous behaviors, complaints of stomach or headaches, or withdrawal from the family.
  2. Be aware that your children may experience stress or sadness related to family changes, the death or illness of special people, and significant changes in your family’s financial situation. Take time to let your children talk with you about their feelings.
  3. Allow your children to participate in some of the planning, cooking, shopping, or wrapping…you can create special memories together and give them an opportunity to feel some control over a time that may seem “out of control” to them.
  4. Stick to your family routines as much as possible…late bedtimes and unhealthy eating tends to lead to cranky children.
  5. Be realistic about what you and your family can handle…it is not necessary to attend every holiday activity and get-together. Balance your busy calendar with time to rest.
  6. You don’t need to spend a fortune to create a meaningful season for your children. Make or purchase only gifts that you can afford, and teach your children to show gratitude for gifts they are given.
  7. If you are traveling, let your children bring items that comfort them, such as a favorite stuffed animal or blanket.
  8. De-emphasize and limit television and video game time, and emphasize your favorite family traditions and rituals.
  9. Be flexible. When you or your children start to feel overwhelmed, take a break and slow down. Focus on the parts of the holiday season that you want your children to remember.
  10. Have fun! Plan some activities for your family that will alleviate “vacation boredom.” Take advantage of free community activities and festivals, take a walk together to look at holiday lights, or do something kind for someone else.