Preparing children for the holidays

A little preplanning can help reduce family stress during the holiday season.

Preparing children is the key to making the holidays happy. Holidays are busy and fun-filled but can disrupt your everyday routine. Stable routines and the reliability of schedules give children a sense of security. Disruption of the routines and excessive activities will turn a hectic day into a chaotic one for the entire family. Here are a few suggestions to minimize familial stress during the holidays.

Have frequent conversations with your children about the upcoming activities. Explain where you are going, what you will be doing, who will be involved and when it will occur. If possible, reminisce over photos and other mementos from past holidays.

Undoubtedly, there will be circumstances where your child will be in overcrowded situations. A visit to a parade or to see Santa may trigger anxiety and crying spells. Be prepared to remove your child from the situation if they become overwhelmed. Comfort and reassure the child, but do not shame them. Remember to fit in quiet time activities, such as books and puzzles, to help relax the child.

Holidays are an opportune time for family gatherings. However, children will view unknown relatives as strangers. Don’t try to force a relationship between the child and relatives. Simple requests such as “Give Aunt Mae a hug” frighten a child. Talk to your child about the relatives they may meet. Explain to your relatives why your child is not comfortable with hugging or talking with them. The child may decide to show affection at a later time.

The family’s dietary routine is easily demolished during the holidays. An overabundance of sugary treats, mindless snacking and varied meal times contribute to bad nutrition choices and challenging behavior. Try to stick with scheduled meal times as much as possible. Pack nutritious snacks to feed your children to reduce unhealthy snacking.

To learn about the positive impact children and families experience due to Michigan State University Extension programs, read our 2016 Impact Report: “Preparing young children for success” and “Preparing the future generation for success.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the Michigan 4-H website.

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