The holidays are already a stressful time for many, and now we are in an unprecedented time of pandemic. Stress management is incredibly important this year, more than ever. Jennifer Katzenstein, Ph.D., director of psychology and neuropsychology at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, gives parents some tips to make the holidays go smoothly.
What can I do to reduce my child’s holiday stress this year?
Stick to routines and maintain consistency the best you can, especially when it comes to sleep! When plans change, update your child, especially if he or she was looking forward to it.
Prepare for potential illness and/or quarantine — caution kids in advance that things may change quickly at this time, especially if someone gets sick. For kids who are used to doing things every year, remind them that they may not be seeing Santa or going to parties, or seeing family members this year around the holidays, and discuss why.
Try to keep healthy meals and exercise a priority. Schedule some family time together and some “down time” to relax and hang out as a family. Be careful not to overschedule or overcommit!
Wait, what about my stress?
Yes! Managing our stress as parents is so important as well, as we have to take care of ourselves first to make sure we are optimally able to help our kids. Same as with our kids, try to maintain routine, good sleep, healthy eating and exercise, as well as knowing our own coping skills and using these skills daily (including deep breathing, yoga, meditation, exercise, etc.).
What are some new opportunities to still make this year special?
Create new traditions — traditions provide a sense of stability and family engagement, as well as personal meaning that can be carried forth from year to year. This year this could be especially meaningful if we aren’t seeing family that we would typically see. This could include handwritten notes, creating special arts or crafts, or making an ornament and craft that really describes some of the good things that have happened this year. This is also a great time to remember what the holidays are all about — helping one another or doing something special each day for each other or someone else, including helping a neighbor or working with a local charity.
On Call for All Kids is a weekly series featuring Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital experts. Visit HopkinsAllChildrens.org/Stories each Monday for the latest report. You also can explore more advice from Jennifer Katzenstein, Ph.D.