Tis The Season

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 Tis the Season

 
The holiday season can be a stressful time for parents, children, and the entire family.  With the rush of holiday parties, present purchasing, decorating, and all the numerous activities that happen during this time, it’s hard to remember the basics.
 
Routine is crucial.  Saying, “it’s the holidays!” is the best response to breaking any routine.  Such events as bedtime, eating healthy, avoiding exercise are quick to go out the window.  However, more than ever, keeping a consistent routine is important for children and families.  This isn’t to say we don’t have more things to do but it should never usurp our family routine.  Children do best when they have prediction in their lives and although they would love to stay up later, it might not always be to their benefit.
 
In order to avoid being attacked by the holiday grizzly bear, consider the indicators of stress for you, your family, and your children.  If you can identify stress early on you can avoid meltdowns, getting sick, and other general struggles.  Signs of stress in children might be problems sleeping, an increase in irritability, low frustration tolerance (getting angry easier), not wanting to eat, complaining of stomach pain or headaches.  I encourage families to think about stress on a scale of 1-10.  A “10” is the most stress your family has ever been under and “1” is virtually no stress (yeah right!).  When you start to feel that your family is around a “6” on the stress scale start some distressing activities. 
 
There are a million things you can do to reduce your family stress and you know what works best for your family.  Here are some ideas:
 
  • Avoid the curse of the “Perfect Holiday.”  As one parent recently told me, “I would love to have a Martha Stewart Christmas tree, but I know that’s not going to happen so I am just letting it go.”  Nothing is ever perfect and we can’t expect the holidays to be any different.  Just know that there will be ups and downs and that some plans will work out and others will not.  Notice the simple things.  I just had a very excited second grader stop me in the fir grove to show me his wiggly tooth.  We sat for a couple minutes and talked about how losing teeth is so much fun!    
 
  • Take a big deep breath.  Taking time to relax and breathe can be invaluable for reducing your stress.  The effect that deep breathing and muscle relaxation has on your body can not be disputed.  Take time for that hot bath, vegging out in front of the television, taking a nice long walk, or listening to your favorite music.  Not only will this help you cope with stress but it provides a great model for your children to learn to cope with stress.  If you have a 2nd grader, talk to them about their Emotional Tool Bag or as one student calls it her “Cope Kit.”
 
  • Do something as a family that is all about having fun and not about getting anything DONE.  Go to Mt. Hood and have a snowball fight or go sledding for the day.  Head to the Oregon Zoo or drive around and look at Christmas lights.  Make sure the family knows the only goal is to have fun, not to get something done, buy one more present, or attend one more social engagement.