During holidays, children are usually seen as happy-go-lucky people who have nothing to worry about, but the unfortunate truth is that if there is stress for the parents, it might affect the children too. The hustle and bustle of Christmas and other holidays are a time when this becomes particularly apparent for many families.
People all over the world enjoy the feelings of love, peace and joy at Christmas, however the holidays are often a time when parents stress more. They need to shop for gifts and shop for meals, often catering for the entire extended family. Meanwhile the children are left to enjoy what parents can easily assume is a fun time.
There are Christmas wish-lists to write, trees to bring home and decorate, cookies to bake and for some, snowmen to build. However according to the executive director of PerformCare New Jersey Kathy Enerlich, the holidays are a time when a greater number of young people call, as they are experiencing various forms of anxiety and depression.
Parents should try to be aware of changes in their children’s behavior, Enerlich said. She suggested that children who are suffering from depression or anxiety may change their eating habits or their sleeping patterns. She also said children may react to stress by becoming withdrawn and unwilling to participate in their normal activities.
Enerlich said holidays are usually associated with sentimental feelings and that the children may be reminded of past events, which they associate with sadness. She added that the child may have a parent who is away from home, or that he or she may simply be remembering a loved one who has died.
People too often assume that during the holidays children might simply relax and play, without feeling the stress that affects their parents. In this instance they may not notice that the stress has flowed on to the children, or that the children may be experiencing stress of their own.
Another factor that may contribute to holiday stress for children is that the busier their parents or careers become, the less focus is given to the child’s needs regarding rest or nutrition. This aspect is particularly relevant in younger children. To counter this, doctors and therapists recommend that parents aim to stick to regular routines for meals and rest, and suggest they should listen to what their children are saying.
Pediatrician Dr. Lisa Miller said negative behaviors that can occur when children are stressed may include tantrums, nail-biting, wetting the bed and fighting with siblings. Other children may experience stomach aches or other unusual pains or body aches. Dr. Miller added that children do not deal with stress in the same way as adults.
Dr. Miller, who is based at the Good Night Pediatrics facility in Henderson, said children suffering from stress can come to the clinic at any time, but there is a notable increase in the weeks leading up to Christmas. She suggested that if the family is traveling, they should ensure that the child’s favorite blanket or stuffed toy is brought along, adding that nutritionally balanced meals should be chosen over fast foods.
Parents too might be able to reduce their own stress levels so that there is minimal affect on their children during holidays. The Huffington Post offers suggestions such as having coffee with a friend, taking a family walk, being spontaneously kind to someone, or expressing gratitude. For people who have an abundance of energy and time there are also suggestions of shared cooking or time spent volunteering in the community. However perhaps the easiest approach is to remember that Christmas comes but once a year, and it is worth putting stress aside even if only for a short time, to instead enjoy the holiday with family and friends.
By Monica Grant
Photo by Will Montague – Flickr License