Mental Health Minute

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Destressing the Holidays for Kids


The holidays can be a stressful time of year. What is meant to be a joyful time surrounded by family and friends can become a stressful time. Adults are not the only ones who can experience stress this time of year. Children can, and often do feel stress as well. The extra activities can mean schedules are out-of-whack, bedtimes get pushed back, and routines are disrupted. When parents experience holiday stress, it is common that children feel it too. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the holidays and relieve your own as well as your child’s stress:


  1. Remember that you and your child may experience some sadness during the holiday season. This is normal. Perhaps it is the absence of a loved one due to death, illness, imprisonment, or service to our country. The holiday season may be less joyful due to a missing loved one. Talk about the loved one with your child. Consider drawing pictures and writing letters to your loved one, whether they can be mailed or not. This simple activity is therapeutic and can relieve stress.
  2. Decide what is important. Is it necessary for you and your child to participate in every gift exchange, pitch-in, and gathering? Decide the activities in which you and your child will participate and which ones you will not. Make decisions based on your interest level, time available, and budget. Overscheduling holiday activities is a common source of stress. It is okay to say no; in fact, it is good to say no in the spirit of self-care for everyone in the family.
  3. Stick to a routine as much as possible. Children will have less stress and be much more pleasant if they have sufficient sleep and eat well. Avoid holiday activities with tired, hungry children. It’s no fun for anyone!
  4. Get moving. Take a walk, go sledding, or play with the family pet. Fresh air and activity are great stress relievers.
  5. Enlist help from the kids. Children enjoy baking cookies, decorating, and wrapping gifts so ask them to help and praise them for their efforts.
  6. Schedule regular quiet time with your child. Read books or watch a holiday video together. Quiet snuggle time is a great calming activity for parents and kids.
  7. Practice kindness. One of the best ways to make the holidays more meaningful and to relieve stress is to do something kind for someone else. Make cookies or dinner for an elderly neighbor or shovel their walk. They will appreciate the kind gesture, and you and your child will feel wonderful about it too.

Wishing you a peaceful, stress-free holiday season!