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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

How to de-stress the holidays

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Child Mind Institute
Child Mind Institute
The Child Mind Institute is an independent, national nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders. Our teams work every day to deliver the highest standards of care, advance the science of the developing brain and empower parents, professionals and policymakers to support children when and where they need it most.

Photo by Nicole Michalou (pexels).

Help the children prepare for the occasion, and don’t set your expectations too high.

Clinical Expert: Caroline Miller

Every year around this time we are reminded of how difficult the holidays can be for people who feel or are alone . But let’s be honest: even in families with many children, the holidays can be stressful, both for parents and children.

Why are the holidays so hard? Because expectations are raised, and the festivities can feel like proof of how happy and successful your family is. And if you have children with psychiatric or learning disorders , even favorite traditions can become a test of endurance and patience. Here are some tips to help you minimize stress and make the holidays more fun and fulfilling.

1. Be open to change
Talk to your children about their traditions, which ones they enjoy, and which ones they could change to make them more fun or memorable for everyone. This is especially important when family dynamics have changed due to a divorce , remarriage, new sibling, or death in the family .

2. Be realistic
Taking children’s limitations into account when making plans will reduce stress for everyone. Children who are eager to meet new people, or even to meet extended family , will need support and realistic expectations. Children who have organizational problems will need help so that they can navigate the delivery of gifts well. Children who tend to be impulsive need structure to minimize disruptive behavior . Not overestimating your children’s patience and ability to concentrate will also help you enjoy more.

3. Prepare children for routine changes
The holidays represent a change in the normal family schedule, and for some children that is unsettling. Preparing them for changes in their routines, what they can expect, and what you expect of them will help avoid crises . If you travel, bring toys and books that your child is familiar with, and make sure you have time alone with them, such as reading before bed.

4. Give yourself a break
Don’t push yourself too hard trying to create the “perfect” holiday season. Decide what’s important, prioritize, and say “no” to what you can’t handle.

5. Be sure to laugh
Children pick up on their parents’ stress and tension, so they are more likely to be upset if you are. Have a sense of humor, enjoy your children for who they are, and realize that what everyone will remember when the celebration is over is likely to be the unexpected moment everyone relaxed, not the brilliantly organized party, dinner, or outing.

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