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12-21-10

Helping Kids get through the Holidays

All the excitement of the holiday brings interruptions in a child’s routine and can add stress for children and sometimes cause behavioral problems.

The holidays are thought of as a magical time of year, but stress and pressure from extra activities, shopping and high expectations can impact family harmony.  Glen Aylward, professor of pediatrics at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, says in some cases holiday stress can cause behavior problems in children.

SOUND BITE:   “ . . .there’s a couple different areas that may stress out children.  The first being a disruption in schedule.  The holiday season is very unpredictable in that regard, so any child that has difficulty with change may have some difficulty adjusting to the change in schedules.  There’s a lot of excitement and a lot of anticipation, and a lot of commercial hype.”

Aylward says behavioral challenges might include emotional volatility and anxiety.   He encourages parents to make the holidays more fun and less stressful, which will make their children’s behaviors more acceptable. 

SOUND BITE:  “ . . . it all depends on how the parents deal with the increased stress because if the parents deal with the hustle and bustle adequately, it will have less impact on the child.  If the parents conversely are overwhelmed by the holiday stresses, then the child may be more affected.”

Aylward reminds parents that children actually remember things that happen around Christmas such as family traditions like reading “The Night Before Christmas” and community activities.  If a child’s behavior becomes more disruptive or doesn’t return to normal soon after the holidays, the child may need to see his or her doctor or a pediatric counselor.

This is Ruth Slottag at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.