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Parenting tips for dealing with holiday stress

Posted at 3:12 PM, Dec 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-04 17:12:39-05

The holidays can be a magical time with great food, favorite movies, fun traditions and decorations.

But the holidays are also a busy time that can be stressful and bring out the worst in many of us.

Most children have time off from school, which can lead to boredom, arguments and over-excitement, which can be frustrating for parents.

Here are a few tips from David Schramm, Ph.D./ CFLE from Utah State University.

  • Set Realistic Expectations.  Not everything will go as planned around the holidays.   Be flexible and open to changes and messes.  Try not to over-schedule activities to the point they become more stressful than enjoyable.
  • Pay attention to bids for connection.  Children thrive when their parents give them attention, affection and connection.  Plan to give them your dedicated time at least once per day where your full attention is offered for whatever they want to do (board games, playing in the snow, reading books, etc).
  • Hold up the emotional mirror.  Many parents will see a range of emotions from children around the holidays.  Mirror their excitement, show understanding when they are sad, and express empathy when they are angry.
  • Grant in fantasy what you can't grant in reality.  Instead of squashing your child's holiday dreams or their gift list, let them know you hear and understand.  Phrases such as "Wow, that would be fun!", or "I wish we could do that too!" can give them the next best thing to want they want, and that is your understanding what they want.
  • Don't use unrealistic threats such as "Christmas will be cancelled if...", or "Santa won't bring you any toys if....".  Strive to be positive but still follow through with rules and unacceptable behavior.
  • Take care of yourself or you may risk turning a happy holiday into a "Noel Nightmare".  When parents are stressed out it often spills over and children feel it.  Take time for yourself: exercise, get sleep, take deep breaths and try to see the bigger picture and enjoy the moments to make positive memories.

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