How to Help Young Children Navigate the Holidays

The holiday season can be a joyous, yet stressful time for many families. There is so much that we expect ourselves to do; decorating, cooking, shopping, visiting or hosting extended family, attending various parties and performances, and so much more. Then throw in the end of the year expectations that we may have in our jobs or classes and it is no wonder this time of year can feel overwhelming.

I was talking to a teacher today and she was relating to me how she always notices some differences in the children she cares for during this time of year. A child may be sleeping less, crying more, or having a harder time participating in the daily routines of the classroom. The teacher had thought a lot about this and was reflecting on how children respond to what is occurring in their world during the holiday season.

There are the frequent parties and gatherings that children may be attending with their family, or they may be seeing more of their babysitter while mom and/or dad attends a party. Children may be staying up later or have their evening routines changed by the need to attend a brother’s or sister’s school program or go to a fun holiday event. There may be more trips to the grocery store or to other stores where children are expected to behave. Children also may be feeling the stress that their significant caregivers are feeling. All of these things can lead to young children feeling less comfortable and secure in their typical daily routines, which can impact their behavior.

Yet, this also provides a wonderful opportunity for us to help build resilience in our young children. It is good for children to experience a little bit of ‘stress’ when it occurs in an environment where the child will receive support to deal with the stress. What are some ways that we can support children during this hectic time of year?

  • Try to maintain consistent routines as much as possible. For example, if bedtime will be later one night due to an activity, try to still do the same things at bedtime as you normally do (maintain the same routine).
  • Help prepare your child in advance when things will be different. Let them know a few days ahead of time that on Thursday you are going to the Zoo lights and remind them what that day will look like (you will go to school, then eat snacks in the car, then go see the zoo lights, then dinner, etc.).
  • Have some downtime with your family where you can do things that everyone enjoys together such as taking a walk, reading, or playing games. Have fun!
  • Give your child strategies to use when they feel overwhelmed such as getting their favorite stuffed animal or blanket, taking deep breaths, listening to music, or singing a song.

Be mindful of how you are feeling and what you need to have a relaxed and enjoyable holiday season.

I hope everyone enjoys this time of year with their family and loved ones.

Post By Jessica Sims