Supporting your Child’s Mental Health during the Holidays
The holidays are a special time of year for children and adults alike. However, the school break, holiday gatherings, and presents can also bring stress, anxiety, and fatigue. FamilyMeans Counseling & Therapy provides 7 tips to support your child’s mental health during this holiday season.
1. Prevent stress
The best way to prevent stress in your children is to manage your own stress. If you are stress free (or at least managing stress well) you will set a base of calm. Be sure to practice good self-care and get enough sleep. You are setting the example for your children! For youth, a lot of the stress that comes this time of year is from uncertainty. Be sure to be open about what their holiday break schedule will look like, including what they are expected to do and what activities are planned. Predictability is key in managing stress connected to expectations and events.
2. Give your child the tools to work through stress/anxiety
No matter how much you plan and attempt to reduce stress, there are still times where it can overcome your child. Some tools that we suggest to use when your child is feeling stress include, focusing on calming breath or meditation, journaling, allowing them to spend time alone, getting outdoors into fresh air, taking a warm shower or bath. Talk with your child about why they are feeling stress and help them to find ways to work through it successfully.
3. Keep routine
Again, predictability is key! Try to keep sleep and eat schedules close to the schedules your children keep while in school. While an exception is ok for special occasions (like New Year’s Eve), it is best to keep bed and wake-up times within an hour of the usual during school time. Eat three healthy meals a day and be sure to keep active!
4. Prepare for family and friend time
The holiday gatherings that you will have with family and friends are supposed to bring joy and togetherness. For children, a room full of adults with prodding questions can be overwhelming and anxiety inducing. Prepare your child for the event to come by giving them an idea of who will be at the gathering and what the event will look like. Remind them that those they will be surrounded by are excited to learn about what they have been up to since they were seen last. Help them to prepare and practice answers to common questions.
Remember that they are kids! Some traditions depend on kids being on their best behavior and with lengthy services, parties with strangers, and elaborate meals the demand can be high. When scheduling events be sure to have just one high demand activity per day, and plenty of time for rest and recovery.
Be sure your children get 8-10 hours of sleep each night. Also plan for relaxing activities that allow for recharging such as a movie night or family yoga class.
6. Have fun!
It is so easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and miss out on fun activities that can be had together. Take time to do something that you all want to do and don’t feel like you have to do. Laugh and be silly!
7. Make a New Year’s resolution
Talk with your children about their wishes and goals for the coming year. Encourage a resolution that supports mental health. Some examples include; start a daily gratitude journal, weekly meditation or yoga, get 8-10 hours of sleep each night, make time for yourself.
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