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How to Take the Stress Out of the Holidays for Kids

Posted 11/17/2016 by UHBlog

Are your kids overwhelmed because they’re overscheduled? Talk to us about how this may be affecting their health.

How to Take the Stress Out of the Holidays for Kids

Everybody can use some time to chill out. That includes kids. Cutting back on activities during the holidays may prevent unnecessary stress – for kids and parents alike. “It may be funny to think about kids getting stressed out during the holiday season,” says Laura Caserta, MD. “After all, compared to their parents, what do they have to be stressed about? But one thing to be careful of is over-scheduling them during the holiday season. Many kids today have very busy schedules between school, homework and other obligations. Scheduling too many parties and other activities during their winter break takes away their chance to slow down and catch their breath.” Along with the anxiety caused by constantly rushing around, children also can pick up on their parents’ stress as they try to squeeze in shopping, social gatherings, decorating and other holiday tasks to their already busy work schedule. “When kids sense mom's and dad’s anxiety, they can get anxious, too,” Dr. Caserta says. To help your kids enjoy a less-stressed holiday season, Dr. Caserta offers the following tips:

  • Limit parties and social activities to two or three events per week. “If they are over-scheduled while they are on winter break, it really isn't a break," she says. “The holiday break should be a chance to get away from the normal routine.”
  • Schedule some family time. “Kids may not want to be out with other people all the time,” Dr. Caserta says. “They probably would like some quiet time with just the immediate family. You can sit down together and bake cookies, make holiday cards or do other activities together so that the family can reconnect with each other while they are on a break. You might emphasize some activities that you don't have a chance to do during the school year.”
  • Manage material expectations. “I've seen kids with some very long lists of things that they want for Christmas,” she says. “Kids talk to each other about the gifts that they are getting, and it can cause stress when their expectations aren't met. I think it's a good idea to establish in advance some reasonable limits on the number of gifts they should expect.”
  • Don't shop tired or hungry. “I actually like the idea of leaving the kids with a sitter when you do your holiday shopping, but if you need to bring them with you to the mall, be sure that you feed them well before you go - and make sure they are well rested,” Dr. Caserta says. “The crankier they are, the more stress there will be for everybody. To keep them occupied and content, give them a job to do, like picking out stocking stuffers for family members, so they don't get bored.”
  • Get fresh air and exercise. “Exercise is a stress reducer for children and adults,” she says. “The holiday break is a good time to get outdoors and run around instead of sitting on the couch or at a desk. How about doing it as a family? You can have a snowball fight or go sledding.”
  • Keep a normal sleep schedule. Strict bedtimes are sometimes waived during the holidays. Dr. Caserta says letting kids stay up late and diverting them from normal sleep patterns can cause them to be cranky during the day.

Laura Caserta, MD is a pediatrician at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital. You can request an appointment with Dr. Caserta or any other doctor online.

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