It’s the most wonderful time of the year! If you’re not careful, this can also become one of the most stressful times of the year. The pressure to have a beautifully decorated home, find the perfect gifts, and have smiling, grateful children at holiday gatherings can put a damper on the joy of the holiday season. It can be very easy to become overwhelmed with the stress of the holidays and miss the opportunity to enjoy this special time with family.
The holidays are typically a busy and potentially chaotic time. Holiday parties and frequent travel plans to join family and friends can put extra demands on time, which can be particularly stressful for children. Sticking to mealtime and sleep schedules as much as possible will help avoid meltdowns. Don’t try to do too much. Simplify schedules as much as possible, leaving more time to spend at home together. Have realistic expectations— babies will fuss, toddlers will have tantrums, teenagers will sulk, and grown-ups will argue. Embrace the imperfections of life and family and show your children how to recover and move forward when these moments present themselves.
As years go by, children will forget what material gifts they received for the holidays. What they will remember most is the time spent together. Practice limiting screen time. Parents can lead by example by putting phones away at home and leaving work at work as much as possible. Have a list of potential activities and let your children help decide what to do. Activities could include things like baking cookies, making holiday crafts, DIY décor, playing board games, and driving around to look at Christmas lights and decorations.
Many families are already under financial stress with the current economic climate, and with even more financial stress coming with the holidays, don’t feel pressured to overspend on gifts. Instead, help children make gifts they can give to family members. Handmade gifts are often most treasured by parents and grandparents. Spend time this season to teach children about the gift of giving. Find a volunteer activity together as a family, such as serving a holiday meal at a local shelter or making cards for local nursing home residents. Allow children to help gather old, gently used toys and clothes to donate to those in need.
As a parent, remember to take care of yourself physically and mentally. Children tend to model the behaviors and emotions of their caregivers. This truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Wishing you and your family a healthy and happy holiday season!
Dr. Amanda J. Murray is a General Pediatrician licensed by the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners and certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. In September 2018, Dothan Pediatric Healthcare Network welcomed Dr. Murray as a physician at Dothan Pediatric Clinic. She is a proud member of the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.