Here’s how to reduce the Christmas season stress for kids

Couple and children opening gifts

By this time of year, many parents finally have their children in the routine of getting to bed at a decent hour, waking up on time and getting dressed, fed and off to school. And then come the holidays, which can throw everything off.

We all need a break from the routine, but make sure you don’t lose everything you’ve gained with your children to the point that you’d have to start all over when the holiday break ends.

Here are some simple ideas to help your family enjoy the excitement of the season, while also avoiding a rough transition back to the routine of school days. Some of these tips are particularly geared toward children who suffer from some level of anxiety.

  • It’s OK to let your child stay up a little later than usual — but not too late. How about an agreement of staying up and watching some holiday movies until the 10 p.m news starts? Maybe a little later for older children, but not all hours of the night.
  • Try to avoid sleeping in more than an hour or so past their school day morning schedule. Remember how difficult it was to get them back into the proper sleep pattern at the end of the summer?
  • Control is a favorite word of mine. Many children are frustrated by having limited control over their environment, so why not include them in the planning for the upcoming holiday festivities? It might be fun to make a calendar together with all the things you plan to do as a family (Christmas parade, tree lighting, shopping, etc.). Whatever it is, just discuss it and put it on the calendar for all to see.
  • If you are planning on shooting special holiday photos, preparation is the key to success. Dress rehearsals are a must, so there isn’t a last-minute scramble. If necessary, you might consider visiting the venue prior to the photo shoot to help ease any anxiety.
  • Then there are the photos with Santa Claus. Remember that your child may be freaked out by the jolly old man in red. They may not yet understand who he is. Is it honestly worth it? Consider that there may be alternatives to the loud, crowded settings where Santa is often stationed. Our Children’s House at Baylor, for example, provides an opportunity for our clients to have their photos taken with Santa in a comfortable and familiar environment. Plus, the “elves” are the staff members who the children know.
  • Some children may be concerned that someone they do not know is supposedly coming into their home, an otherwise safe place, while the family sleeps on Christmas Eve. If that is the case, offer an explanation that might ease their fear. Consider telling them you’ll stay up and help their friend Santa deliver the presents.

Most importantly, make sure Christmas morning is a joyous day filled with the love of family and friends. Happy holidays and Merry Christmas to you and yours.

About the author

Mary Hawkins
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Mary is an Occupational Therapist at Our Children’s House in Las Colinas. She enjoys working with all children, especially those with pediatric orthopedic injuries and Autism. In her spare time, she rides her horses Luke, Eclipse & Fin and competes in equestrian competitions.

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Here’s how to reduce the Christmas season stress for kids