Dealing with Holiday Stress

The holidays can be an exciting time for young children and families. With delicious baked goods, to unwrapping gifts, holiday parties, and sing-alongs at school, the holidays can be full of fun, happiness, and love. However, for many, the holidays can bring other elements that can result in an increase in stress for both children and their families. Holidays can be a reminder of loved ones who have passed and can no longer partake in festivities. Changes to daily routines may leave families and children feeling “out of whack.” Finally, holiday expenses can result in financial stress. If you are one of the many families affected by these difficulties, here are some tips that might help decrease some of the holiday stress. 

Grief: 

For children and families coping with the loss of a loved one, the holidays can be particularly stressful and filled with reminders of the loss. Often, families have established rituals such as putting up decorations together, exchanging presents, baking together, or singing songs as a family. When a family member is missing, it can be a challenge adjusting. Continuing these rituals, and/or creating new and fun rituals can be a great way to cope with loss and change. Making time and space for remembering lost loved ones such as discussing memories or making their favorite holiday foods can help. Remember to trust that grieving during the holidays is a part of the healing process. Ask friends, family, and your community for help if you need it. 

Change in Routine: 

The holidays can be exciting for children as they look forward to time off from school or daycare and more time to spend with family members. Attending holiday parties, dinners, and other holiday activities can be exciting! However, most children adjust better to changes in their daily schedules when they know what to expect. Creating a visual schedule or calendar of what your child is doing each day might take some time but can help children understand what to expect and may help them adjust to changes in their schedules. Keeping up with as much of a normal routine can also be helpful. For example, maintaining your usual morning and nighttime routines, and planning naps for your children can be very helpful. Remember that if your child seems more cranky and irritable than usual, this might be a sign that they are feeling tired and confused and that they might need a break from festivities. 

Taking a Break: 

It is important to remember that the holidays are about spending time with loved ones and creating memories. If you or your family members are experiencing an increase in stress around this time of year, it might be time to take a break. Remember that you cannot always say “yes” to everything and that it is okay to say “no” if you or your children are feeling overwhelmed. If you are stressed from all of the activities and running around, it is likely that your children are as well. Checking in with yourself and with your children will help you recognize whether it is time to slow down. Setting boundaries with yourself and others may help decrease holiday stress. 

Finances: 

If the holidays are a stressful time for your family due to finances, it is important to know what resources are available to you. Please talk to your child’s therapist if you are in treatment at The Children's Center to find out more information about these resources. Below is a link for more resources to help during the holiday season and winter weather conditions! https://211utah.org/index.php/winter 

Enjoy your holidays! 

Samantha Smith, Psy.D. 
Staff Psychologist at The Children’s Center

NOTE: THIS INFORMATION SHOULD NOT BE USED FOR THE DIAGNOSIS OR TREATMENT OF A MENTAL HEALTH CONDITION. IF YOU HAVE ADDITIONAL CONCERNS, CALL US AT 801-582-5534 (SALT LAKE) OR 801-966-4251 (KEARNS) TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES FOR CHILDREN.