It’s the time of year where families start solidifying plans to gather with relatives and family friends for the holidays. While there’s plenty to enjoy about this season, it also certainly comes with its fair share of stress. In particular, holiday family gatherings can cause extra anxiety for kids who have to cope with unfamiliar situations, crowded rooms, and a break from their structured routine. By taking a few intentional steps before your family gatherings this year, you can help your kids avoid extra meltdowns and tantrums while saving yourself some stress in the process.
Communication is Key
Probably the most important thing to keep in mind when preparing for holiday family gatherings is clear communication. Start early by calling your hosts if you’ll be traveling. Get clarification on their house rules and ask what their expectations and plans are for the gathering. Be sure to make your expectations and concerns clear as well. Discuss any behavioral issues your kids have and explain the ways that you may need to help get through the gathering successfully. Perhaps it would be helpful to know of a good park to walk to get rid of some hyperactive energy, or maybe you ask your hosts if they can have a quiet room available if your kids get anxious or overwhelmed.
Communication with your kids is also crucial to making it through family gatherings. In the weeks prior to visiting your hosts, make sure they know the house rules and expectations. Be sure to also emphasize things to be excited about, such as seeing their favorite cousins or playing with the cool old toys at Grandpa’s house.
If you are hosting guests, you’ll likely be able to have more control over the food. But if you’re traveling, you may have to make some requests or offer to bring a dish of your own if you have picky eaters. Be sure to be prepared for some peace and quiet for your kids by keeping a room available for them to do some relaxing activities if they start to get overwhelmed. It also helps to maintain as much of their routine as you can, like doing calming activities before bed or playing an active game during the day, to productively redirect anxious energy.
Keep Your Kids Busy
During your family gatherings, it definitely helps to have some “escapes” available for your kids, but you also want to keep them engaged. Plan activities and games that the kids can enjoy with everyone, like helping decorate cookies or playing a family-friendly card game. If they have social anxiety, seat them next to relatives and friends you know they are most comfortable with. As stressful as family gatherings can be, they are also special times where you can all make lasting memories together as a family, so encourage your kids to make the most of it. At the same time, manage your expectations of your kids and make sure you’re setting them up for success. Offer lots of praise and have some rewards set up for your kids if they’re on their best behavior for the day.
By taking these steps, you’ll be able to beat the stresses of the holiday season and enjoy valuable time with your loved ones.
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