During the action-packed holiday season, kids absorb it all. Some can cope, some cannot. Most of our activities are worthy, but being an advocate for your child must be your first focus. If your child displays unusual behavior during the holidays, take it as a sign for corrective action. Try these simple, yet effective, ways to reduce stress for you and your family:
- Maintain Sleep Routines: Making up for lost sleep is a myth. During the hectic holidays, regular bedtimes and nap schedules are crucial. Kids thrive on routine, so try to keep your kids on the same bedtime hour, even on weekends. Not only do children need oodles of sleep, but adults who are well rested find that they're better parents, too. Don't be fooled, as some kids fight off tiredness by acting energetic as in the case of Andrew. This behavior can turn into a habit that is very hard to change. Naps for younger children are critical because they lower the body's adrenaline, a stress hormone. Children will mimic your mood, so a happy home often depends upon everyone getting regular, sufficient sleep.
- Decrease Stimulation: Calming a troubled child can be as simple as leaving the crowd. At home it may be turning off the TV, and lowering lights and voices. Many children respond to a warm bath or shower. Remember, constant access to high stimulation can create patterns of emotional imbalance. In parenting, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of punishment. One Missouri couple turns off the phone and nixes an event for an evening. Another says they plan off-peak hours to shop with the kids. Rather than wait for stress to take its toll, happily maneuver the holidays by reducing sources of agitation.
- Touch More: When a child is acting most unlovable, that may be the perfect time for a hug. The power of touch is truly amazing—it makes newborns gain weight and grow, it's a positive discipline technique, and it is calming for both kids and adults. Everyone needs a hug. Holding your child can ease nightmares and stomachaches, or even quiet a temper tantrum. A stuffed animal or blanket helps, too. Older children get this same benefit by squeezing dough, coloring, or rolling out cookie dough with Mom in the kitchen.
- Plan Emotional Recovery Time: Youngsters immersed in excitement might appear starved for more, and piles of holiday projects can fuel a child's contrary behavior. But correction is as easy as giving kids time to wind down. Rather than piggyback your activities, plan time to go home and recoup before going on to the next event. Being at home is familiar to kids. Familiarity helps recovery. "He seems relieved when he spends time at home with me," observed one mom. During this chaotic season, plan some lows between the highs. Although none of us like to hear from our kids "I'm bored!" it is good parenting to allow monotony in your home.
Most people enjoy this fun time of year. But innocent minds can be overwhelmed with the adult hustle bustle attached to it. Children are immature and defenseless to coping with stress. During this short season, watch and respond to calls for de-stressing. Then everyone has happy holidays. Better yet, your child feels understood and valued.