Christmas / 10 November, 2023 / Christina Walter
Christmas, typically associated with joy and goodwill, is a time when families come together in all their beautiful diversity, blending different generations, from toddlers to teens to adolescents, parents, and grandparents. Amidst the twinkling lights and cheerful gatherings, it’s important to recognise that festive fatigue and seasonal anxiety can affect each member of the family differently.
This festive season coincides with children being off from school, which, while exciting, can also present challenges. Parents may find themselves juggling work and childcare, managing holiday plans, and ensuring that the break is both enjoyable and stress-free for their kids. This can be a delicate balancing act that can lead to feelings of pressure and anxiety for both parents and children.
As parents, it’s crucial to create an environment that allows children to embrace Christmas in a way that feels comfortable for them. Here are some tips to navigate the complexities of seasonal anxiety:
As a parent, it’s crucial to understand the unique pressures your children face during the holiday season. The desire to fit in, meet expectations, and participate in holiday traditions can sometimes become sources of stress for them.
Encourage your children to express their feelings and concerns. Let them know it’s okay not to be festive all the time, and that you value their emotions. Share your feelings too, so they understand that even adults experience holiday stress.
The expectation to keep up appearances, whether it’s playing along with Elf on the Shelf or participating in other Christmas traditions, can sometimes contribute to anxiety and stress.
Engage in discussions about the family’s realistic expectations. Emphasise that holidays are about cherished moments together, not merely conforming to societal standards. Be a role model for embracing the true spirit of the holidays.
Concentrate on a few meaningful traditions that resonate with your family. Don’t feel compelled to partake in every holiday activity. Choose what genuinely brings joy and meaning, and involve your children in the decision-making process.
(Our family try and watch the movie Elf on December 1st – always with the obligatory bowl of popcorn!)
Parenting over Christmas often means striking a balance between keeping your children engaged and ensuring you have time for yourself. It’s essential to recognise that while you want to create happy memories, it’s equally important to take care of yourself and manage your own stress.
Prioritise self-care for both yourself and your children. Ensure everyone gets adequate rest, engages in enjoyable activities, and practices relaxation techniques when needed. Show them that self-care is a valuable skill for managing stress.
(Box Breathing is a great way to help calm the chaos.)
The cost of living during this time, including expenses for gifts, decorations, and special treats, can weigh heavily on both parents and children. The pressure to get Christmas “just right”, particularly when facing financial constraints, can contribute to stress and anxiety for parents.
Kids can pick up on these money worries, and it might make them anxious about what they were hoping for and what might not happen.
Being open and honest with them about the family’s financial situation might alleviate their worries. Set reasonable budgets for gifts and activities, encouraging your children to appreciate the value of thoughtfulness over extravagance.
Embrace the unpredictable and be open to change. Some of the most memorable moments are born from spontaneity and going with the flow. Show your children that adaptability can lead to fun and exciting adventures.
So, let’s take it a step further to offer more practical advice for parents – ensuring it’s not just the kids who are frolicking in the festive fun :
Don’t feel like you have to do everything yourself. Involve your children in age-appropriate tasks like decorating, gift wrapping, or meal preparation. Bung on your favourite Christmas playlist to put you all into a festive frame of mind.
Allocate specific times for quality family time, whether it’s through cozy movie nights, playing board games, or going for a walk to get some much needed fresh air. This allows you to connect with your children without the pressure of elaborate plans.
While screens can be entertaining, excessive screen time can lead to stress and a lack of meaningful interactions. Encourage your children to take breaks from screens and engage in real-world activities. Remember to provide alternatives – so they aren’t just twiddling their fingers waiting for the time to pass.
Try baking Christmas cookies, have Christmas jigsaw puzzle set up in the corner or have a Christmas dance party.
Amidst the hustle and bustle, set aside some quiet moments for reflection and relaxation. Christmas can often feel overwhelming, so pressing pause can calm things down a bit.
Corny as it sounds, this works wonders. Teach your children the value of gratitude by discussing what you’re thankful for. You can even create a gratitude journal where everyone writes down something they appreciate each day.
With so many commitments and events, it’s important to set boundaries. Discuss all your expectations for the festive period. Do this well ahead of time – so that there are no surprises. Allow yourself and your children to say no to certain engagements when needed, to avoid overstretching.
By implementing these strategies, parents can create a more balanced and enjoyable holiday season, alleviating the burnout often associated with this time of year. Remember that the essence of Christmas is not in the perfection of celebrations but in the moments of togetherness and love shared with your family.
Article by Cai Graham Family Anxiety Support Specialist