If you've had a divorce or death in your family, the holidays may bring up heavy emotions that your child has trouble processing. Many teenagers are happiest with a set routine and adherence to traditions that are familiar to them. If a family situation, such as a job loss or an older sibling being away, causes a major shift in what they expect during the holidays, this can be hard as well.
The winter holidays happen at the end of the first school semester. This may be a time of school stress, as well. If your child's grades are suffering or they've let some things at school slide, it could be that it comes to a head during the holidays.
The holidays also happen to be during a time of year when there is less sunshine. This can lead to seasonal depression. If you have a tendency to get blue during the short days of winter, your children might as well.
Here are some ideas for helping your child manage stress during the holidays.
- Plan ahead for some active winter fun. Go sledding or skiing, walk around your neighborhood to look at lights or bundle up and head out for a snow day in the mountains. Start a new family tradition of spending time during the winter holiday break from school at an indoor pool, playing miniature golf or throwing around a football at a local park. Exercise releases brain chemicals that are great stress busters.
- Take advantage of any sunny days by going outside with your child. Even if it's cold, bundle up and take a walk. Put your teenager in charge of decorating the outside of your house this year, or help them set up a few walkways to shovel for some spending money. Having a plan, and spending some time outdoors, help combat seasonal depression.
- Encourage your teenager to participate in a program that provides holiday support to a child in need. Look for a community group that will give your child the name and age of another child, then help them brainstorm ideas for ways to make that child's holiday better. Redirecting negative energy into thinking about someone else is a great way to lift a case of the winter blues.
- Take some time during the winter break to talk to your child. Find out how school is going, now that the first semester is nearly over. If they are struggling, offer extra help. Winter break is generally two weeks long, which is plenty of time to help your teenager get back on track if they've gotten into bad study habits or fallen behind. Sometimes getting school problems aired out is a great anxiety and stress relief.
- Check in with yourself, too. If you're extra stressed by the upcoming holidays, your children will pick up on that and mirror it back to you. While you're planning your perfect holiday, don't forget to pencil in some time for yourself and to spend stress-free with your family.