Help children cope with holiday stress
By Brenda Aufdenkamp
UNL Extension Educator
Holiday season is upon us with jack-o-lanterns behind us and shopping, decorations and big family dinners ahead.
It is the time to be merry, but it’s also the time of disruption in daily schedules and general chaos.
How do your children handle all of this? Did you know that many times when a child acts out or misbehaves it is because the child is under a lot of stress?
The holiday season brings with it much stress. Children may not always know the best way to deal with that stress but parents can help.
Stress for a child usually comes from an outside source and many times that source can be a parent. This is because children depend on their parents for emotional security and often react to stress because of how the perceive their parents reaction.
Parents can examine their own stress levels to find out if their own actions are causing stress for their child. When parents are tense, upset and inattentive, it disrupts the flow of normal activities.
This is the time when parents need to take a deep breath and take time to talk and listen to their kids.
The best thing a parent can do is acknowledge a child’s feelings. This opens the door for children to talk because it shows someone is willing to listen.
A parent can also help children look at all the choices or ways to behave and cope. This is a great way for children to learn to solve problems and relieve stress. This helps encourage a child and teaches him or her self-respect.
Other factors that affect how children handle stress are changes in the child’s diet or sleeping pattern, illness or tiredness. These types of changes almost always are present during the holidays, so try to keep them at a minimum to reduce stress for children.
One last word—the most important thing to keep in mind during the holidays is to enjoy being with your family. It’s important enough that you might need to cut down on preparations and lessen the burdens of shopping, decorating and preparing.
Make it family tradition to put family first and enjoy being together. Focused attention and affection that is a part of family time together will help give any stressed-out child a feeling of security.