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Kids and Holiday Stress

With the holiday season upon us, December can be a time of exciting celebration but also a time of great stress for adults and children alike. Parents often feel a time crunch of competing demands and regular schedules are disrupted with travels and other exceptional events.  For many families, there is the stress of mounting financial concerns.  If families have experienced the loss of a loved one or there is family discord and separations, then the holidays can be an especially difficult time.  When we look at picture-perfect advertisements and assume that other families are all having a magical time, this can also add to the unease.  Children are more sensitive to their parent’s emotional state than we often realize.  Some may be worried about family finances and so will feel worried about asking for any presents, for example.  As we know, when kids are stressed and overwhelmed, they will show this through their behaviour rather than words. Meltdowns anyone?


Helping Kids Manage the Holidays:   

-Keep their routine as regular as possible.  Ensure that sleep, healthy eating and physical activity are considered when accepting various invitations and adding in activities.


-In age appropriate ways, explain the importance of adhering to a budget.  Help children understand that there are limits to keep gift-giving expectations realistic.  Talk about the spirit behind gifts and help children make small gifts or give of themselves through helpful deeds.


-Emphasize the fun of spending time together.  Free or inexpensive activities like board games, crafts, cooking or baking together and enjoying the outdoors are the stuff that memories are made of.


-At mealtime or bedtime, review the good moments in the day, cultivating a gratitude practice.  This helps to train the brain to be more content!


– It is okay to say no to too many activities and too much television and social media.  Remember that you know your child best.  Help your child find the words to express and honour their feelings and pay attention to a healthy level of stimulation and calming activities.


-Take good care of yourselves by modelling balance and good self-care activities.  Remember that you can’t give from an empty well!


If you are having a particularly difficult time this holiday season, please reach out for help.  Contact Living Well, speak to your family doctor, or contact the Distress Centre at 403-266-4357.



Katherine Jarrell RSW, MSW, is trained in many areas including anxiety, depression, and parenting concerns, plus many more. Her expertise is drawn from her experiences from working at AHS, EAP Programs, FCSS in Fort McMurray, and with the CNIB.  For more information on Katherine and her work, click here to link to her full bio page.