woman with santa hat
Everyone approaches the December holidays differently. We all know the Martha Stewart-type, who buys gifts all year long at huge discounts, hosts a fabulous neighborhood holiday cocktail party, and is able to dip into her freezer to choose from 12 different types of baked goods for the cookie exchange. But most of us are simply too busy with everyday life to reach that organizational nirvana, so the holidays often become overwhelming and stressful. Here is a list of six tips to help you cope with the season at hand. Don’t worry—it’s a quick read!
1. Plan your activities wisely. Find out what is happening in our community this season. The Neapolitan Family calendar at www.neafamily.com is a good place to start. Mark your calendar early so your family has things to look forward to, and involve your children in the planning process. Remember to limit the number of activities so that the events add fun and excitement to the holidays, rather than stress. Avoid over scheduling, as accepting every invitation that comes your way may take a toll mentally and emotionally. “A couple of events a week may be fine but having an obligation every day can lead to stress and anxiety,” say Petra Jones, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Southwest Florida. Also, be mindful of your children’s limitations. “Avoid taking your child to places such as the mall or holiday gatherings when he is hungry or tired. It is hard even for grownups to deal with noise and lots of stimulation when they are not feeling their best,” Jones says.
2. Stick to your routine as much as possible. “Try to get routines on track once an event or party is over,” Jones says. “For instance, if a school holiday concert or church gathering goes past your child’s bedtime, try to stick to quiet, calm activities the next day and get your child to bed on time the next night.”
3. Keep gift giving simple. Help your child strike a balance between what he expects and the reality of the economics in your family. Attempt to find gifts that are interactive. “Take time to take in the excitement of the child and look at it together and play with it,” says Sara Henry, a marriage and family therapist. “What decreases the stress level is real interaction between kids and adults, where they are enjoying something together rather than something that kids get isolated in like a video game.” This family interaction also serves as a reminder of what the holidays are all about.
4. Be mindful of family “situations”. If you are in a divorce situation, be cautious about competing with the other parent in the gift department. Share your child’s excitement about gifts she receives from the other parent, rather than focusing on who gave more presents.
Be considerate of your child’s feelings if you have more than one child. “You want to think ahead in terms of sibling rivalry and make sure you find ways to engage with each child,” Henry says.
5. Make the commitment to give back. “It is important for kids, with their parents, to go and help projects in the community whether it is meals being given out or recreational activities for groups that are less fortunate,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Lynne Clausen. These selfless acts are a great way for your child to feel good about himself.
6. Stay active and positive. “Fresh air and exercise are essential for boosting mood and resetting the spirit which can alleviate holiday stress and anxiety in children,” Jones says.
Do your best to maintain an upbeat tone. “Holidays carry a depressing tone for some folks so you want to have realistic expectations. Know that gathering family around is a wonderful thing but also carries with it the same stresses and issues that have been a part of the family dynamic,” said psychologist Dr. Keith Foster.
Make this holiday season the year that you take the stress out of the holidays, and keep your focus on what’s important: family, faith and fun.