Managing stress is just as important for children as it is for adults. Stress can affect anyone who is overwhelmed, especially during the holidays—and that can include young children.
Some stress triggers might be scheduling visit times for blended families, separation from a parent, the high expense of the season, or dealing with the loss of a loved one. Even if these are not communicated in words, children are sensitive to changes around them. Often, stress that children feel is reflected in a change of behavior or mood.
Here are five simple ways to help alleviate family stress.
- Take time to exercise. Physical activity is a great way to let off steam. Take 15 minutes to go for a walk together, toss a ball, or play tag. You’ll both feel better for it.
- Incorporate some downtime. When visiting family or friends, let your child take along a favorite book, puzzle, or game, and give her free time to enjoy the activities that help her relax.
- Retain your normal routine as much as possible. When children know what to expect a level of comfort and safety is created for them. For example, if you read a bedtime story together every night, try to maintain that structure.
- Make sure your child gets plenty of sleep. Loss of sleep due to excitement, family gatherings, or staying up later than normal can contribute negatively to a child’s willingness to cooperate.
- Plan for good nutrition. The holidays are a time when extra sugary treats might be allowed. Compensate for this by planning healthy meals and snacks at home and in school lunches.
Stress is a normal part of life. In small doses, it can motivate and challenge us to do more. When you plan for stress-coping strategies early, you can help your young child build the resilience to stay focused and healthy—for the holidays and the whole year through.