Christmas Can Be Stressful For These Kids – Here’s How You Can Help


Christmas is a magical time to celebrate family, practice cherished traditions, and plan new experiences.

But the constant hustle and bustle can also be stressful, with so many extra things to do on top of our regular routines.

For some, the change in routine and stress can cause a host of extra issues – here’s how you can help.

Children and adults who suffer from anxiety may not see Christmas as relaxing or magical.

They are overstimulated, off their routines, and are faced with additional social situations that may not be easy for them at any time of year.

For children especially, parents must monitor what their kids can – and cannot – handle this time of year.

Children with anxiety or sensory issues may look forward to all the season has to offer, while at the same time experiencing new symptoms that they don’t understand and cannot control.

You may be used to how your child’s anxiety manifests itself, but it is easy for us to get caught up in all we want to get done at Christmastime, and we may become preoccupied.

There are several ways we can help our anxious kids this time of year, and these tips work just as well for adults who see a spike in their symptoms.

U.S. News and World Report shares some tips on how to keep our kids’ anxiety under control and help them enjoy all the magic of the Christmas season.

Track symptoms – All kids are different and if they suffer from anxiety, they may experience a new or different set of symptoms at Christmas.  They may be confused and overwhelmed when everyone else they know is excited.

It’s a good idea to keep track of any new or unusual symptoms that may appear in the days or weeks before Christmas.

If you notice a pattern when a particular symptom spikes, it will help you to know what activities or situations to avoid.

Set realistic expectations – If you know a situation like a large group of people coming over to celebrate triggers your child’s anxiety, make alternate arrangements that will suit everyone.

If a party is going late and your child is having trouble handling it, know when to go home.  If they are overstimulated in a crowded shopping mall full of lights, make arrangements for them to stay with a family member they’re comfortable with.

Do they dread seeing Santa at the mall or can’t stand all the Christmas lights you want to put up?

Find compromises and solutions that work for your child and the rest of your family.  For example, keep one room dark and quiet as a place for your child to decompress – especially when visitors stop by.

And never force them to do something that you know is out of their comfort zone.

Plan your decorations around your child’s needs and create a calming and soothing, rather than overwhelming, environment in which your child can enjoy the season with the rest of the family.

Practice coping strategies and stick to their routine – Make a plan and talk to your child about what activities they want to do and which ones to avoid.  If your child has a “safe” item or a sensory tool kit, make sure it is always available to them, whether you’re at home or away.

If you plan to visit family out of town, plan ahead with them so your child has what they need to feel safe and calm.  Bring their favorite items and discuss things that may become triggers for your child’s anxiety with whoever you plan to stay with.

Explain to your child what will be different in your routine step-by-step.  You can even role play different situations and give them a code word to use if they feel overwhelmed and need a break.

Part of anxiety includes feelings of fear and unwillingness to try new things because they become triggers for bad feelings.

U.S. News and World report recommends:

Use reframing to catch anxious thoughts and turn them into more positive and realistic thoughts. (For example, “I can’t go to this party because I have no friends there and no one will like me” becomes “I can stay close to my sibling/parent until I feel comfortable enough to join a group.”)

Kids can also benefit from journaling or coloring to express fears and doubts that they can’t otherwise express.

Above all, anyone who experiences anxiety must maintain healthy habits.  Christmas is often a time when we eat poorly, stay up too late, or neglect to get outside or stay active.

A quiet walk, plenty of downtime, and some healthy treats will help the whole family when things get overwhelming.

Remember, both children and adults who suffer from anxiety want more than anything to feel happy and excited about everything going on at Christmas.  Sometimes, though, they just can’t.

A writer for Today explains, “Whatever you do, please don’t question us, refuse to acknowledge this as a real condition, or assume we are putting on some kind of a show for attention. I can promise that people who are sincerely struggling would give their left arm to never feel like this again; to actually be able to enjoy the holidays. That concept is foreign and fleeting for us.”

This may be a feeling that is especially evident in kids with anxiety.

So this Christmas, reach out to friends and family whose symptoms may prevent them from joining you in all the festivities.

Be a shoulder and lend an ear, make arrangements to celebrate that will make them feel comfortable, and acknowledge that what they feel is real.

This is especially important for kids who may not have as many choices as adults about where they go and what activities they participate in.

Their feeling of helplessness at having to tag along and participate in everything that everyone else wants to do will only compound their symptoms.

Does your child suffer from increased anxiety at Christmastime?  What are some of your tips for compromising and coping so your child can enjoy the season?  Leave us your comments.



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