De-stressing the Holidays

By Kiritkumar N. Shah, MD

Most parents have fuller calendars and longer to-do lists during the holiday season. While these extra activities certainly can add stress to our lives, we accept them because we want to make the holidays special for our families. What we may not realize is that our frenetic pace and internal pressure to create the perfect holiday experience can create more stress than warm feelings for our children. Here are a few ideas for making the holidays special, without being too stressful for anyone:

  • Plan and prioritize your activities as a family. You do not have to do everything. Ask each family member which holiday traditions mean the most to them. Make those your priorities and bypass others.
  • Maintain regular bedtimes and mealtimes. Children find the structure of daily rituals comforting and are less likely to be irritable or fussy when well-rested. So are you!
  • Schedule quiet time. Plan an hour at the end of every day when you turn the television off. Read, talk or just enjoy the quiet together. You’ll be amazed at how relaxing quiet time can be.
  • Play outside. Weather permitting, schedule at least a half-hour of outdoor exercise every day for you and your child. It’s as simple as walking the dog an extra few blocks or making a detour to the playground during your errands.
  • Add extra time. Plan to leave 10 minutes early so you won’t find yourself rushing.
  • Get organized. Make lists so you won’t have to run back to the store for that missing ingredient. Try to consolidate errands, kitchen chores and activities. Pack an emergency kit for the car with snacks, fruit, juice boxes, diapers and a clean change of clothes for each child.
  • Spend quality time together. Your attention is the most precious gift you can give your child at any time of year. During this busy season, find a few minutes every day when you can turn your full attention to your child. Share a cup of cocoa, a cookie, or even just a hug. Children can withstand almost any amount of stress and excitement when they know that they are loved.
  • Remember yourself. Try to find a few minutes for yourself every day. Exercise, read, listen to music or daydream. Maintaining your own equilibrium is the most important step toward a happy healthy holiday season.

Dr. Shah practices with CHKD Health System’s Town Center Pediatrics.