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

SOUND BITE:    “One, of course, is the media blitz that begins probably at Halloween and continues onward.  There are a lot of changes in schedules and a lot of pressure on parents.  The children have to deal with the anticipation and they have to deal with family gatherings, travel oftentimes, etc.”

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.

SOUND BITE:  “Probably the best bit of advice is to take care of themselves first because if they stress out, the child will be stressed.  The other thing is it is nice for each family to have some type of tradition.  Read “The Night Before Christmas,” on Christmas Eve, have gift exchanges between siblings, have limits on what is spent, have realistic expectations.”

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.

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