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Holiday Stress Prevention Tips
from Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina

When holiday stress is added to everyday stress it's easy to take it out on your kids. Put the following tips into action to make the holiday season more enjoyable for the entire family.

Keep Kids On Schedule. Meals, naps and bedtime should occur at approximately the same time each day. Well-fed and rested children are more pleasant and cooperative than hungry, tired kids. Schedule shopping trips and outings for the time of day that you and your children feel most energetic. Bring healthy snacks to eat while you're away from home, as well as a bag of their favorite things-include books, playdough, puzzles and their favorite videotape.

Involve Your Child in Holiday Preparations. Encourage your children to help with shopping, baking and gift wrapping. At the store, discuss colors and shapes, or play guessing games. Let your kids pour and stir ingredients for cookies, make holiday cards and put bows on presents. Kids feel important when adults encourage them to help. As kids help with holiday activities, they learn how to carry on family traditions.

Resist Feeling Guilty. The holiday season is a difficult time financially for many parents. Parents have to keep up with monthly bills and buy holiday gifts. Try not to feel guilty if you are unable to meet the commercial demands of the holidays. Spending beyond your means will only increase stress when the credit card bills come. Take advantage of free events like the school pageant or church holiday party.

Share Yourself With Your Kids. You may not be able to give your kids all the material things they want, but you can give of yourself. Plan a special activity for just you and your children. Go on an indoor picnic. Make cookies or paper ornaments. If you have more than one child, set aside special time to spend with each one.

Set Rules and Stick to Them. Discuss rules with your children and seek their input. Keep rules simple and few in number. Post them in a prominent place (like the refrigerator). Share with children the positive consequences for following rules and the negative consequences for breaking them. Be consistent in applying your rules for acceptable behavior. Children, like adults, respond best to praise, positive reinforcement and rewards. Rewards may be tangible (stickers) or intangible (extra playtime).

Preparing for New Experiences. The holidays are a time of fun events and new experiences. Children may feel stress during new activities and may express their fears through anger or misbehavior. Talk with your children beforehand about visiting Santa, attending a party, relatives coming to visit or participating in the school play. Ask them how they feel about different activities, and answer any questions they have.

Reinforce Good Behavior. Praise encourages healthy self-esteem. Children need praise to learn appropriate behavior, so "catch" your children being good as often as possible. Reward good behavior by giving special privileges, such as having a friend over for a play date. Give verbal praise, hugs and lots of kisses. You can also give material rewards like stickers, gum and toys to reinforce good behavior.

Know What to Expect from Your Child. Learn about child development-what children are typically capable of at each stage of growth-so that your expectations for behavior are appropriate. Unrealistic expectations cause stress for you and your children. Read books on parenting and child development, talk to other parents or your doctor, and take a parenting class. It's comforting to know that other parents experience similar difficulties with potty training, teaching the concepts of sharing, dealing with teenage mood swings and many other aspects of parenting.

When You Feel Stressed, Take Time Out. Put the child in a safe place such as a crib, playpen or childproof room. Count to ten. Take deep breaths. Think about the causes of your anger. Direct your anger at something other than your child. You can hit a pillow, take a shower, exercise or call a friend. Ask a neighbor or relative to babysit.

Take Care of Yourself. Pay attention to your own needs. Everyone functions better with adequate sleep, food and recreation. Take the time to do something just for you-take a walk or a nap, listen to music, get a massage, take a class or join a gym.

Call Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina if you need to talk about holiday stress, would like FREE parenting information, are concerned about a child or would like to get involved in child abuse prevention in your community. 1-800-354-KIDS.

Holiday Fun

Family running over a field.Holidays are supposed to be fun. But along with the holidays comes added responsibilities such as buying presents, running from party to party, and family obligations. It's no wonder children become exhausted and more prone to tantrums and crying. If your family is having a holiday meltdown here are some tips. Keep your routine and your child's routine as normal as possible. Keep expectations for your child reasonable, and prioritize your commitments by remembering parenting is your number one priority. Above all else, have fun!