Remember that your own stress level and emotional state are readily transferred to your child. Lower your expectations for the “perfect” Christmas holiday and be prepared to “go with the flow” when your child’s needs call for flexibility. Keep her emotional tank full during the holiday season by scheduling daily one-on-one time to play, read, or do an activity together.
Shorten the Countdown
An extended period of anticipation can feel overwhelming to a young child. Consider waiting until mid-December to begin your holiday decorating or to use an Advent Calendar to track the days until Christmas. To defuse children’s mounting excitement about presents, let them open a few smaller gifts during the countdown to Christmas.
Don’t Make Santa Your December Disciplinarian
The anticipation, bustle of activity, and excessive stimulation during the weeks preceding Christmas already create stress and anxiety for children. Threatening that Santa will bring fewer presents if your child misbehaves only adds to the pressure and worry she feels, and ultimately proves to be an empty threat. Don’t abdicate your essential parenting role of consistently enforcing your rules and limits for appropriate behavior year-round.
Allow Children to Let off Steam
Arrange opportunities for your child to be physically active each day by playing outdoors or visiting an indoor children’s play center.
Schedule Some Quiet Time
Periodically allow your child to retreat and unwind from the excitement of holiday festivities by watching a favorite DVD or playing quietly with arts and crafts or Play-Doh.
Don’t Force Children to Sit on Santa’s Lap
While parents relish the time-honored photo of their youngster happily smiling on Santa’s lap, young children often perceive Santa as strange and scary and may violently recoil at the idea of being held by him. While waiting in line at the mall, show your child exactly what will happen if she chooses to greet Santa. If she is terrorized by the sight of a big stranger in a red suit, respect her emotional distress and show your support by not forcing her to sit on Santa’s lap.
Do you find your children to be a little stressed during the holidays? How do you schedule downtime while still participating in traditions?
Marianne Neifert, M.D., M.T.S., also known as Dr. Mom, is a well-known pediatrician, professional speaker, and author. Visit her web site, www.dr-mom.com.