For families with young children the added expectations and work of the holidays can put parents (and kids) over the edge! Here are some tips to help you make this season the joyful time it should be:
1. Stay cool and calm- Parents set the tone so being a relaxed role model is the single best way to reduce children’s stress – so take care of yourself by exercising, sleeping enough, eating well, and letting go of whatever you can. Be aware of your own feelings, since holidays can evoke many memories and emotions.
2. Keep regular routines – The added activities and change from normal daily schedule can really increase anxiety. Young children have almost no control over their own lives so routines make life feel more predictable. So try to be sure that bedtimes, meals, rules, chores, etc. are as normal as possible
3. Avoid over-scheduling. Prioritize holiday activities so that you and your children are not overwhelmed. A couple of events a week is probably enough (and will allow you to keep regular routines mostly). Make things easy for yourself—for example buy cookie dough instead of making from scratch so you and the kids can go right to the fun parts.
4. Plan quiet time- Be sure to schedule in some down time for the family when you can snuggle up together and relax! Being outside can also provide a break from the hustle and bustle. Remember that it is your time and attention that children want more than anything!
5. Explain your expectations – Let your young child know what you expect of them in holiday events or at the mall. For example, say “when we go see Santa we will be waiting in a long line—what should we bring to do while we wait?” or how to react if given a gift that you don’t like. Avoid the temptation to squeeze in one more errand when kids are tired, hungry, or overwhelmed. Know your child’s individual temperament and needs. Good suggestions for children with autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, or just those easily over-stimulated: http://www.autismspeaks.org/docs/holidaytips.pdf
6. Stay focused on your values- Remind yourself and your children, what the holidays are really all about. What you spend your time and money on shows what you really value. Involve your children in giving—by making cards and gifts for others, collecting for the food bank, buying gift for a needy child, shovel the neighbor’ driveway, wrap gifts for charity, etc. Whatever you do, be sure to involve your child. Focusing on giving can help counteract some of the media bombardment of consumerism. Additionally, accepting help and support from those who care about you can help alleviate stress. Even volunteering at a local charity with your kids is a good way to connect with others, assist someone in need and teach your kids about the value of helping others. A website on children and materialism: http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2006/12/26/how-materialism-develops-in-the-young/