Take the Stress Out of Santa Season
Children can get just as frazzled as their parents during the holidays, leading to insomnia, tummy aches, and temper tantrums. Here, eight easy, expert-recommended ways to ensure a happy, healthy holiday for the entire family.
Keep Them Posted on Big Plans
Change is unsettling no matter your age: Would you want to trade your
bed for a cot so Uncle Ira can be comfortable? Nope, and neither does your
little one. So when her life is about to be disrupted, give her a heads-up, but
without making too big a deal about it. That in itself can whip up worry by
making her think something must be wrong, says Martin. "Instead, start by
providing a truthful reason for the change that makes sense to your children,"
she suggests. For example, explain that Uncle Ira has a bad back and needs a
soft mattress. Then point out what won't change. ("We'll put your
favorite sheets on the cot, and you can still play in your room during the
Fall Back on Routine
"Kids crave structure because it's soothing when they can predict what's
going to happen next," notes Martin. But impromptu gatherings and unexpected
houseguests make sticking to every routine nearly impossible. "Instead, aim to
keep at least some aspect of the routines your child is accustomed to," says
Martin. For instance, if you can't tuck them in at their regular time, keep up
at least one typical pre-bed ritual, like a bedtime story or a glass of warm
milk. "This lends focus to the chaos," says Martin. "Kids know that no matter
what else is going on, this is something they can count on."
Give Them Freedom to Frolic
"Overscheduling activities can lead to tense and anxious kids," notes Ruth
Peters, Ph.D., a child and adolescent psychologist based in Clearwater, FL. And
since stress over a prolonged period taxes the immune system, it may even
result in physical ailments, such as colds or flu. "Set aside two hours each
day for kids to be kids, and avoid scheduling back-to-back or even daily
holiday activities," suggests Peters. Also, consider getting a babysitter for
at least some of the adult events you know they won't enjoy — for example, the
kind where they have to dress up or keep quiet for too long.