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Helping Kids Get Through the Holidays

All the excitement of the holiday interrupts 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, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, says there are a variety of stressors that can affect the child.

“. . . there’s a lot of ads, a lot of commercialism, pressures and a lot of other peer pressures and the parents’ stress as well.  Perhaps one of the biggest issues is the change or destruction in the routine, and this could be disruptive to some of the children.”

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

“One of the best things is for the parents take care of themselves so they can provide a secure base for the child.  In other words, don’t put excessive expectations or pressures on themselves because the children can detect it.  Parents need to be realistic about the holidays.  There’s no such thing as a perfect Christmas or a perfect New Year . . .” 

Aylward advises parents to guide children away from the material issues of the holiday and get into the giving – the actual spirit of the season.  Help them donate a gift to someone less fortunate.   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.

Ruth Slottag