For many, this time of year signifies the beginning of the holiday season—a time for gathering with family and friends, sampling special foods and giving gifts. But for others, especially young children just learning to express themselves, the holidays can be anything but joyful. Excitement is on overdrive, while expectations are high that everyone will get along and be polite. Is it any wonder that the season of holiday cheer often goes hand-in-hand with an increase in stress and anxiety, for both children as well as their adults?
According to Daniel Pine, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the National Institute of Mental Health, “The main thing to know about anxiety is that it involves some level of perception about danger,” and it thrives on unpredictability. Certainly, for children, the holidays can be very unpredictable!
So, what can we do to help our children enjoy the holidays? Remember that children often need time to warm up to a new situation. This is particularly true of those who have shier dispositions. Allow them to enter a room or join a group of people at their own speed. Equally important, keep in mind that there is a lot of pressure on children at this time of year. So, even if your child is normally easy-going, don’t assume they will be easy-going in every situation. A child’s excitement is not always indicative of how they truly feel, and because young children have limited life experience, they cannot always overcome fears or uncomfortable feelings quickly.
You can also be proactive to avoid a meltdown or tantrum. As you are scheduling up get-togethers, pencil in break times. Then adhere to them, even if everything appears to be going well. Plan activities that your child or children enjoy, away from the noise and excitement of the festivities. This may be as simple as taking a walk, playing a quiet game or snuggling and reading a book together. Overall, a little forethought now lets your children know that you understand and support them during this time of year, which will go a long way towards ensuring everyone enjoys the holidays!
DBRL offers a wide assortment of books on helping your child work through stressful situations. Here are some to get you started.
- “Crunch, the Shy Dinosaur” by Cirroco Dunlap
- “Ruby Finds a Worry” by Tom Percival
- “Jack’s Worry” by Sam Zuppardi
- “What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety” by Dawn Heubner
- “The Don’t Worry Book” by Todd Parr
- “Wilma Jean the Worry Machine” by Julia Cook
- “Don’t Worry, Douglas!” by David Melling
- “Worries Are Not Forever” by Elizabeth Verdick
- “When My Worries Get Too Big: A Relaxation Book for Children Who Live With Anxiety” by
Kari Dunn Buron
- “Pilar’s Worries” by Victoria M. Sanchez
- “Rainy Day: A Little Moral Story About Worry” by Dan Vaccarino
- “I’m Worried” by Michael Ian Black
- “The Koala Who Could” by Rachel Bright
- “Ladybird’s Remarkable Relaxation: How Children (and Frogs, Dogs, Flamingos and Dragons) Can Use Yoga Relaxation to Help Deal With Stress, Grief, Bullying and Lack of Confidence” by Michael Chissick
- “Allie All Along” by Sarah Lynne Reul
- “Angry Octopus: A Relaxation Story” by Lori Lite
- “Too Shy for Show-and-tell” by Beth Bracken
- “Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats” by Alicia Potter