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Zepf Center News

Navigating the Holiday Stress with Children

Published Wednesday, December 19, 2018
by Eric Young, MSW, LISW-S Director of Youth Therapy

The holiday season can be a season of seeing family, socializing with friends, attending parties, breaks from school, and lots of yummy holiday treats.  It can also be a time of additional stress, extra tantrums and arguments from children, and longer to-do lists.  To help navigate this stress here are some tips to get through the season. 


Keep routines-With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, routines and schedules can easily be disrupted and end up throwing some children off their normal, predictable routines.  When possible, try to maintain pre-holiday mealtimes and bedtimes. The holidays can bring additional social events, extra shopping trips, and many errands.  Keeping well-fueled and well-rested will help to cope with the holiday stress.  Don't stray to far from normal bedtimes (an hour or so later) and allow the family down time to recover from all the errands.  


Remember those we have lost-The holiday season can trigger feelings of grief and loss for those that we have lost.  Feelings of sadness can arise in parents and children.  Allow the child to express his or her feelings around the loss.  A child may want to draw a picture or create something for the lost one in order to memorialize the loved one, encourage and support the child in the process.   When possible and helpful, keep previous meaningful traditions alive in remembrance of the loved one, even if it’s only one thing.  Talk to friends.  Create a memory book.  Shared good memories and stories of the loved one.  Talk to your or child’s doctor, therapist or counselor if the feelings are overwhelming and interfering with your life or the child’s life. 


Exercise-The holiday season can be stressful and we forget to take care of ourselves.  Research shows physical activity can help reduce stress.  Take a family walk, dance together, look for outdoor activities, play tag, bundle up and visit a favorite park and playground, visit your local YMCA and programs, go ice skating, do yoga together.  Participate in martial arts, gymnastics, basketball, indoor swimming, or bowling.  Run or start training for a 5K, there a number of holiday races in local communities that are fun and noncompetitive.  


Let the kid’s have fun too-With kids in tow on shopping trips they often are subject to shopping activities that are less interesting and engaging to them.  To help gain their cooperation and enjoyment of the shopping experience, allow the child to attend to sections of the store that are enjoyable to them or visit a store they enjoy that may be on the way. This will help to get their cooperation and buy-in to the shopping experience.  Reward good behavior.  Give praise frequently for waiting patiently, listening, and cooperating.   Set expectations ahead of time.  Remember, they are children and will lose interest and bore more quickly than adults.  Bring activities along that the child enjoys and can do while waiting for the parent shop.




Integrated care is the coordination of general and behavioral health care needs in an effort to treat not just the body but the mind.


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