Pam Modugno, OT, with some sage advice for holiday parenting
The holidays are the “most wonderful time of the year,” but they can also be a very stressful time – especially for children.
“Children benefit from structure and routine, and during the holidays their routine is often disrupted, making it difficult for them to transition to a busy holiday schedule,” says Pam Modugno, OT. “The crowds, noise and lights associated with holiday activities can cause children to be overstimulated.”
Recognizing the Signs of Stress
Stress can affect the body and brain, causing symptoms such as: change in eating habits or decreased appetite, trouble sleeping, headaches, irritability, crying, clinging and more.
Many times, change is the root cause of stress in children. “If you try to do too many activities in one day, it can cause a child to become exhausted and frustrated,” explains Pam.
Reducing Stress: Tips to a Happy Holiday
If your child starts to exhibit signs of stress, bring them to a quiet area and have them take a few deep breaths or take a walk before returning to your activity. Always check in with your child to see how they are feeling.
Making your child feel comfortable and secure is crucial. You may have to adapt activities to make them more enjoyable. If it is noisy, use ear plugs or noise cancelation headphones or play their favorite music. If it is too bright, provide sunglasses or a baseball hat to help reduce the light. Younger children who are bothered by crowds may do better in their strollers, because it gives them a safe place where they can lower the canopy or nestle under a blanket.
Pam offers the following tips on how to reduce your child’s stress during the holiday season:
- Keep your child on a regular schedule with sleep, food, exercise and rest.
- Planning is essential to keep your child feeling their best. Be sure to research the activity online, show pictures/videos to your child and arrive early. Explain to your child what activities you will be doing.
- Don’t let your child overindulge in too much sugar and make sure you pack healthy snacks.
- Be flexible and always have a backup plan.
- Hire a babysitter if activity may be too difficult for child.
- Have adaptations available for your child.
- Your child may not feel comfortable in a fancy holiday outfit so make sure their clothes are comfortable or bring comfortable clothes to change into.
- Encourage your child to participate and be involved.
- Reflect on the event afterwards and talk about challenges faced and conquered. Problem solve as a family to determine what could have gone better for next time.
- Focus on quality time with your family, creating memories.