Holidays: Children And Stress
Patricia Zifferblatt | November 19, 2008

Holidays can be very hectic and stressful for adults and well as children. As we cruise into the holiday season, it might be a good time to review the basics.

Children like routines. They want to know exactly what time Mom, Dad or other caregivers come home from work. They need to be reassured that whoever picks them up from school remembers that Wednesday is Taco Night and doesn’t try to feed them pizza instead. Children prefer to study at the same table and/or desk, go to bed at regular hours and eat the same cereal every morning for breakfast.

Be realistic. Many children are just coming down from the sugar buzz of Halloween. We rushed home from work, hurriedly put our children into costumes, quickly steered them around the neighborhood and ended the evening by negotiating the number of candy bars they were allowed to consume (some tears were shed). And now, the real fun begins, together with the stress of trying to have a good time and being a responsible parent during the rest of the holiday season. Here are a few tips we have learned over the years:
  • Be a good role model. Yes, Thanksgiving is a time to rejoice in the bounty of the harvest season, but, we don’t have to eat until we become “food stupid” - irritable, groggy, sending a loud message to our children that Thanksgiving is the season to be a glutton;

  • Avoid carting your children around the malls shopping for gifts – they don’t like it and neither do you (be honest);

  • Do not take your children to the grocery store (infants exempt). They will want to buy all the wrong foods for the right reasons – they heard about it on TV and it must be good for you;

  • Remember that children have short attention spans. By the time you have dragged out the Christmas lights and unwound the tangles, they are no longer interested in stringing 1000 lights around the roof of the house;

  • Children remember experiences and tend to forget ‘things”. There is no earthly reason to go into debt to buy numerous gifts for kids that are either broken by the end of Christmas day or ignored in the excess of present overload. Find ½ hour to bake healthy cookies with your children. Teach them how to make warm apple cider in a mug with a cinnamon stick. Carve out 15 minutes each evening to read and plan for the next day. Decorate the family Christmas tree with craft items your children bring home from school and forget about perfection;

  • Turn off the TV. At this time of year, retail merchants are invading our homes with endless radio and television commercials aimed at children. These ads signal children to ask for toys that they do not really want and certainly do not need. We wind up wasting time and energy in endless negotiations over topics such as “the real meaning of Christmas”, “you already have 50 action figurines, that’s enough”, “mommy already changes lots of diapers and doesn’t want to change your baby doll’s diapers, too”, etc;

  • Concentrate as much as possible upon the changing of the seasons, try all the different vegetables and fruits that are available in the autumn and winter months, make soup (it’s healthy, nutritious and warming), cut down on as many social engagements as possible and spend time with your family and close friends;

  • Chill out and keep warm.
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