Does anticipation of the holidays have you stressed – gifts to buy, people to invite, meals to make, in addition to your already busy daily schedule? First, enjoy a slow, long,refreshing breath and then, keep reading.
The frenzy of festivities for adults inevitably trickles down to children. They sense tension (if not the reason for it) and react. Children are creatures of habit and find comfort in the security of routine….knowing what comes next. It gives them some sense of control, which is something they don’t yet have much of. As holiday preparations interfere with parents’ usual routines and their stress level increases and patience decreases, children may show signs of distress, becoming more clingy, needy, cranky or combative. They may present problems with activities that they normally do with relative ease. Bedtime, waking up and going to school or their play may be affected.
If you observe any of the above, or other changes, in your child’s behavior lately, you might want to consider a quick self-check. Are you feeling overwhelmed by adult responsibilites? Do you have less time to play or talk with your children? Do you feel less patient when they are not being angels? Relax.
Your first step is to help yourself. Think of what they tell us on airplanes. ” Put your own oxygen mask on first!” OK, another deep breath. Then you need to summon your support system – spouse, parents, family, friends – to lighten your load. See if you can organize your time better, eliminating the frills for a while. Only do what is most important; some tasks and chores can wait until after the holidays. A babysitter, even a young one who can occupy the children while you are at home, can offer some breathing space. Maintaining some of the routines that your children are attached to helps keep them grounded.
You already know that children are often the most problematic when you really need to get something done. Spending ten or fifteen mintues with them (a story, game or simple project that they can continue with themselves) should allow you to return to your task more peacefully. If what you are doing is something they can participate in (making cookies, etc.), even at a very simple level, they feel important and may actually be helpful. Even clean-up can be done together if it’s presented as fun (“see if you can beat the clock”, etc.). It’s easier to do if there’s a promise of something special to follow. [“If we can finish this chore quicker, we’ll have more time to read a book together”]
Young children can feel overwhelmed by the level of activity – crowds of pople, having to sit on Santa’s lap, worrying about Santa and all those reindeer on the roof, having to kiss or be adorable for scores of relatives and friends. What we take for granted or fun can be stressful to a child, depending on their personality and age. Taking a few moments to listen or observe your child, especially if they are not yet verbal or inclined to express their feelings, can save a lot of time and energy.
The spirit of the season will be remembered, in the long run, not for the number of presents or events attended. Feeling safe and secure in a loving family ignites the spark of the warm glow we feel when we think of the holidays. Enjoy !