How to Cut Your Kids’ Stress Through the Holidays
December 20, 2018 • Parenting • By Joanna Teigen
Christmas is a kid’s dream come true. They can’t wait for a vacation from school, visits with friends and family, toys and presents, and every kind of treat they can imagine. Yet for all the fun and excitement, the holidays can stress them out and wear them down. Here are seven ways to help your children find peace throughout the season:
Keep the routine.
Sleepy, hungry, maxed-out kids lose their holiday spirit in a hurry. As much as possible, keep bedtimes and nap schedules right on time. Put healthy meals on the table at the hours they’re used to, and allow for their usual snack time before they’re “hangry” and whining for another sugar cookie.
If your days are busy with shopping, movies, and the festive events of the season, plan ahead. Keep a fuzzy blanket and pillow in the car for a little rest on the go. Load your bag with nourishing snacks to avoid the drive-thru and keep the munchies away. Pack some pj’s and toothbrushes in case evening visits go long, so you can get a head start on the bedtime routine before heading for home.
Keeping a sense of normalcy goes a long way to keep our kids happy, healthy, and relaxed.
Nothing is more reassuring for your kids than your close presence. Offer lots of affection and hugs—studies show a 20-second hug releases “feel good” chemicals in the brain, lowers blood pressure, and eases stress. Rub the knots out of tense shoulders, pull little ones onto your lap for a few minutes in the rocking chair, or simply plop down on the couch side-by-side to watch a Christmas classic on TV. Sticking close by says, I’m right here. I hear you and see you. We’re in this together.
Comfy and warm.
A warm bath with lavender salts. Fuzzy socks, stretchy leggings, and fleecy sweatshirts. Soft music, stuffed animals, and security blankets. Pull out all the cozies during this busy season—soothing textures, smells, and sounds ease the tension so kids can relax.
If you’re hosting a houseful, create a “nest” in a quiet corner so your kiddo has a place to retreat for some quiet. Fill it with pillows, stories, and a couple of simple toys, making an inviting space to breathe deep and calm down. At our house we use a weighted blanket and “fidgets” to help our son’s restless mind and body settle down. Encourage your kids to step away for a re-set as needed, and they’ll learn the art of self-regulating and listening to their own stress signals.
Share the plan.
A lot of kids’ anxiety comes from simply not knowing what’s next. When each day (or hour!) feels like a surprise, they feel the suspense. We can keep our kids in the loop by sharing our schedules and plans. Charts and calendars on the wall allow them to see what’s coming. Mealtime conversations can include a re-telling of what’s on the agenda. Phone or stove timers allow kids to count down until go-time without asking “is it NOW?” a million times a day.
Giving our sons and daughters a voice in our plans gives a helpful sense of control as well. Would they rather shop for gifts after breakfast or lunch? Do they want to drive through the holiday light display on Thursday night or Friday? Would they rather go bowling or ice skating with their cousins? Let your kids weigh in on some of the details so they feel they have a voice.
Laugh a little.
Laughter is the best medicine—we need a large dose of it during the frantic pace of the holidays. Spending some time watching funny movies, playing favorite family games, and cracking up with a joke book will melt away the tension. Burn off some physical energy with a pillow fight or silly snowman contest. Exchanging ridiculous white elephant gifts or sending the kids on a goofy scavenger hunt fuels kids’ humor and creativity. Shopping for the ugliest of ugly Christmas sweaters and belting out carols in the car keeps things from getting too serious. Spend a little time on the lighter side of the season!
Take care of you.
Children are super sensitive to the moods, pace, and facial expressions of their moms and dads. They’ll pick up on our stress even before we’ve clued in to how we’re feeling. We need to manage our own anxiety levels so our stress doesn’t rub off on our kids. Whether it’s getting enough sleep, keeping nourished and hydrated, taking breaks to simply breathe, or spending extra minutes in our prayer closet, caring for our own well-being is a gift to our kids.
Pray and listen.
While Jesus is the reason for the season, our devotional time with God can suffer in the busyness of the holidays. Take time to unplug devices, turn down the lights, and meditate as a family on the beauty of advent. Pause for prayer—for help and strength to get it all done, for happy and healthy time with loved ones, and to praise him for all the wonderful things he’s given—and receive his peace in your spirits. Inviting our kids to take their anxieties to God in prayer lets them leave their stress and worries at his feet.
Christmas is beautiful, and sharing it with our kids creates once in a lifetime memories. Childhood flies by and these days are precious. With a little sensitivity, planning, and prayer, stress can melt away.
God bless you and your kids as you celebrate the gift of Jesus.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
The Lord’s justice will dwell in the desert,
his righteousness live in the fertile field.
The fruit of that righteousness will be peace;
its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.
My people will live in peaceful dwelling places,
in secure homes,
in undisturbed places of rest.