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Reducing holiday stress for your keiki

Dec. 13, 2019

The holiday season is about aloha, gift-giving and gathering with friends and family – but the frenetic festivities can be nerve-wracking, not just for adults but for keiki as well. Remember, holidays do not have to be perfect.

As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to and be open to creating new ones. The following tips can help decrease your child’s stress and make this time merrier for everyone.

How to tell if your keiki is stressed

According to child education psychologist Charlotte Reznick, Ph.D. signs of holiday stress may include:

  • Increased irritability or anger
  • Inattention, restlessness and distractibility
  • Clinginess
  • More crying, whining, or complaining
  • Sleep troubles (or sleeping too much)
  • Physical symptoms like headaches and stomachaches
  • More or less eating
  • Isolation and/or avoidance of social activities
  • Regressive behavior such as bedwetting or thumb-sucking

How to reduce holiday stress for your child

Stick to routines
Things can seem a little crazy during the holidays, but do your best to maintain some consistency. Children experience comfort through routine, so as much as possible, stick to the usual naptimes, mealtimes and bedtimes for your child.

Give a heads up
Once you’ve figured out the family’s plan for the day, let your child know in advance when specific things will happen. For instance, explain that the family will watch a favorite holiday movie after dinner.

Validate and encourage
Give your child permission to express her feelings. Express positive, but realistic expectations of your keiki, specifically in regard to their end-of-semester school stress and/or family members they may be missing during the holiday season. Respect their feelings, validation doesn’t always mean agreement.

Schedule in downtime
When coming up with your day’s events, pencil in some downtime. Short breaks during the day can help kids recharge and may help prevent behavioral problems as the day goes on.

Work up a sweat
Exercise causes the brain to release endorphins, the body’s feel-good chemicals, which can reduce stress. Encourage your kids to get some physical activity during the day. If traveling long distances, letting your child stretch her legs and burn off energy can help keep crankiness at bay.

Just say “no”
A major way to tame some of the craziness associated with the holidays is to skip out on some activities. Be selective when considering holiday invitations. Another option is to not take your child along all the time.

Keep yourself in check
Children of all ages look to their parents for cues about how they should think, feel and act, so make sure you manage your own stress. Parents need downtime during the holidays just like children, so carve out some time, even if only a few minutes, to do something calming or enjoyable for yourself.


7 ways to prevent holiday stress – for your children
Harvard Medical School

How to take the stress out of the holidays
Child Mind Institute

Tips for parents on managing holiday stress
American Psychological Association

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