Building gingerbread houses, baking cookies, and Christmas caroling in the park are festive activities I adore. But sometimes, the activities I hope will bring Christmas cheer give me complaining kids instead. What gives?
While the holidays can be a magical season of family and fun, we all have a breaking point. I’ll always remember our first Christmas with a toddler. The romantic visions in my head of opening presents and baking cookies did not match my reality. Our toddler was tired, overstimulated, and crying. She missed her nap, and all the excitement brought out all the emotions.
Thankfully, as our family has grown, we’ve learned how to manage the holiday stress. We’ve also gotten better about planning periods of rest in our busy holiday schedule.
As we enter the most wonderful time of the year, I want to share 3 stress-relieving strategies to help you and your kids enjoy the holiday season!
3 Stress-Relieving Strategies For Kids During the Holidays
First, be a student of your child.
All of us have different likes, preferences, and thresholds of stress. What makes your child tick? If a child is more introverted, the holidays may bring extra stress. Crowded holiday parties without any periods of downtime can be draining.
Before you plan, pause and think about what makes your kids thrive. It’s okay if your holiday schedule looks different from your friends. Every family has different needs. Do what works for you! As you plan, ask yourself, Is there anything that needs to change in our plans? Do our holiday plans serve our family well?
Now, before you start rearranging everything, hear this: some amount of stress is good. Our kids will never grow or stretch if we remove every ounce of discomfort from their lives. It’s about finding that balance of stress and peace. It’s okay if an activity gets our kids out of their comfort zone. Rather than avoiding anything uncomfortable this year, what if we helped them work through the hard? This brings me to strategy number two.
Second, teach your kids how to understand the signs of stress.
Kids may not always be able to verbalize, “Mom, when we have multiple activities on weeknights, I feel overwhelmed.” Instead, they may fuss, cry, or act out. Thankfully, we can teach them to recognize their bad moods as warning signs.
If we’re having trouble sleeping at night or feel a tightness in our chest or a fluttering feeling in our stomach, our body is trying to communicate something. Instead of panicking when these signals come, what if our children could learn to pause, reflect, and ask:
- “What’s really going on here?”
- “Am I doing too much?”
- “What is my body trying to tell me?”
As we learn to understand our emotions, we’ll be better able to self-regulate. If we know loud, noisy Christmas parties make us feel overwhelmed, we can prepare our minds and bodies for the event by taking deep breaths or practicing positive self-talk. Help your kids understand their bodies’ signals by pausing and reflecting!
Lastly, teach your kids the power of the mind.
Every day, we have thousands of thoughts running through our heads. What we think matters! But it takes practice to understand how our thoughts influence how we feel and what we choose to do, especially for kids. One way to help your child understand the power of the mind is by teaching them about self-talk.
Explain to your kids that self-talk is what we say to ourselves out loud or what we think in our heads. It can be positive or negative. And whether we realize it or not, our inner dialogue never ends.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could catch our negative thoughts before they impact our moods?
To do this, we need to pause and reflect. Kids are busy and typically run from one thing to the next. If you notice your child is struggling emotionally, pause and ask them, “What are you thinking about?” Then, ask them how those thoughts could impact their feelings. They may need some assistance connecting the dots. But with practice, they can identify their thoughts and feelings.
While December is one of my favorite months, it can also be stressful and overwhelming. Instead of trying to get through the month, I’m learning to pause and consider my thoughts, feelings, and schedule. I can’t control everything, but I can control what I think and how many extra activities I schedule. I’m choosing to prioritize my mental health this year over the idea of a “picture-perfect” Christmas. Will you join me?