Monday, 6 November 2017

Christmas stress for children - Why does it happen? What can we do?

In the lead-up to Christmas, which is supposed to be a happy time, many children begin to experience anxiety. Why? You ask. It's the best time of year! Here are some reasons you might want to consider:

  1. Lost loved one - Christmas happiness hinges on being around those you love. Has your family lost a loved one this year? Is this the first Christmas without them? Your child may be missing that person and not know how to express this. 
  2. Parental problems - money. If Mum and Dad are arguing over money, how much to spend and on whom, this stress trickles down to the kids. Be aware that children don't understand that you're trying to make it nice for them and to be fair to all members of the family. 
  3. Parental problems - contact visits. If Mum and Dad are no longer together, the Christmas visitation rights can be fraught with unhappiness and stress. Make sure you both try to get along, for the sake of your child. Step parents too. This isn't about scoring points against your ex with the biggest present.
  4. Parental problems - arguing. The vast majority of us don't live in luxury and yet we want Christmas to be special for our kids. But what if striving for that perfect present or lunch/dinner causes more stress than it's worth? Remember what is most important to children is your approval and your TIME. Neither cost money. Encourage your kids to make presents and cards for family members. These are treasured for decades and far more meaningful than fancy bought items. Christmas is about giving from the heart.
  5. Christmas Day is coming! Oh no! Some kids find Christmas too much to cope with - all the noise, people talking, music, kids running around the house and the expectation that he/she will be 'happy'. Just the thought of this major event may cause stress in the weeks and days leading up to the day. Be aware of this. Put together a time-out strategy for Christmas day, so that no matter what happens, your child knows you will understand and help them cope.
  6. Too many people, too much noise! Christmas Day itself can be very overwhelming for kids with built-in anxiety. Make sure there is a quiet place, safe from intrusion, to which your child can hide away for a bit if things become too much. Don't take it personally that your child doesn't want to run around like a mad thing with the other kids. He/she isn't being ungrateful or rude, just overstimulated. Be mindful also that there may be tears for a couple of days after the big event as your child winds down again and processes everything that happened.
  7. My gift isn't good enough - Some kids watch TV and can't separate the glamourised version of reality there with their own more humble existence. Perhaps there are no grandparents living nearby. Perhaps there is a parent missing. And perhaps your child is concerned they don't have enough pocket money to buy you something amazing, causing them to feel depressed or worried. Make it easy for them by giving them a list of things they could do that would be awesome as a present, such as a voucher to do the dishes, clean out the car, make you a cup of tea every day for a week or similar. Acts of kindess are presents too!
So here are some thoughts for your to ponder. Its difficult to get into the minds of our children sometimes and see the world how they perceive it. Just be aware that anxiety can creep up or crash over them and that Christmas can be that trigger. 

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