December 24, 2013
Helping children 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 children.
“First their schedules change. They are out of school and many travel. So those oftentimes are disruptive. There is also the big hype media-wise and peer-wise to get the best toy, to want things that they probably don’t even need. This is exacerbated in situations or families where there is already pre-existing stress such as food and security, lack of social support and family issues.”
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.
“Basically the best advice for parents is to take care of themselves. Because if parents are under stress, the children can sense this as they are bellweathers of stress. So parents need to keep finances under control, not exhaust themselves by too much revelry during the holidays and not get upset meeting family members that perhaps they would prefer to avoid.”
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. 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.