Herald Journal Columns
Dec. 20, 2004 Herald Journal

Helping children deal with holiday stress


Holiday times can be stressful for everyone, including children.

Children may deal with the stress by “acting up” or withdrawing for awhile. The following are some suggestions from the web site, www.ehow.com, to help them deal with the holiday hectic and make the holidays more enjoyable for them, making it more enjoyable for us, as well.

Try to take the hype out of the holidays. Talk to your children about the true meaning of the holiday season, as written in last week’s column.

Simplify the season.

Children like to give gifts. Help them do their holiday gift planning. Holiday shopping can be overwhelming for children. Help them, in advance, decide who they should buy for, what they should buy, and how much they should spend. Better yet, help them make gifts for family and friends, or help them make coupons for acts of kindness they can do for others.

Set spending limits for everyone to follow. This will help children to save their money and remind them that they don’t have to overspend at the holidays.

Emphasize family traditions, or create new ones just for your children. Routines and rituals are comforting to most children and help to create lasting, happy holiday memories.

Keep travel to a minimum. A single-destination visit to grandma and grandpa’s might not cause major stress, but a long road trip to visit everyone in the extended family may be very stressful.

Include your children in the holiday planning, and let them know the final plans well in advance. This will give them a chance to prepare themselves for the visits, parties and other running around of the season.

Stick to your normal family routine as much as possible. It may be hard to take time out of busy holiday preparations, but a walk, a trip to the playground, reading time, or whatever else you usually do with your children each day, can be a great stress reducer.

Involve your children as much as possible in your holiday preparations, such as crafts, baking, cooking. These are fun activities that keep hands busy.

The web site also offers these suggested warnings:

• If you see your children beginning to get stressed, try to spend some quiet time with them before the situation gets out of control.

That’s all happened to us at one time or another. Stop for a snack, game, or a few minutes of reading. Get back to holiday activities when everyone is relaxed.

• Choose holiday events activities carefully and sparingly.

Great advice!

Wash away germs

This is also, it seems, the time of year when colds and what-not are going around, and with the holidays, everyone gets less rest and are more prone to catching those colds. It’s important to continue to relay to our children the importance of hand washing, so they won’t miss out on the fun with illness. I guess that would be good for all of us.

According to the American Society for Microbiology, washing with soap and warm running water for just 15 to 20 seconds eliminates 99 percent of the germs on our hands. Washing our hands after being outside, wiping a nose, or touching a pet, and before and after handling raw food, will decrease the spread of germs.

By rubbing and scrubbing our soapy hands together we pull the dirt and germs free from our skin. The soapy lather suspends both the dirt and germs, and germs trapped inside the lather are quickly washed away with the running water.

Antibacterial hand sanitizers, which I carry in my purse, vehicle, and diaper bag, are good to use when soap and water are not available.

A Christmas tradition

Every Christmas, I give my own children and the children for whom I am a baptism sponsor, a tree ornament. I try to find an ornament that is unique to each of them.

I am a sponsor for sports editor Aaron Schultz, whom as you would guess, I give some type of sports-related ornament.

I write their names and the date on the ornaments, with the hope that they will put the ornament on the family’s tree, or collect them and take them when they live on their own, maybe even passing them on to their own children someday.

Teach your children some favorite family recipes. Usually, families have certain dishes, appetizers, or sweets that just have to be made during the holidays. Your children will have fun learning the stories that go with their holiday favorites.

My husband’s mother had a cookie recipe that our family calls “Grandma’s secret recipe.” She gave this recipe to me when my husband and I got married, and I’ve kept that original handwritten recipe card in my recipe box.

She died before our children were born. This year, I shared that recipe with my children. It’s been a neat way for them to connect with her because they had never gotten to know her.

They want to make the cookies for our Christmas celebration this year. The cookies will forever remain “Grandma’s secret recipe.” Hopefully, they will pass the family recipe on to their own children someday.

A holiday joke

Why does Santa have three gardens?

So he can ho-ho-ho.

A yuletide poem

Here’s a Christmas poem that reminds us that it’s fun to take part in all the Christmas joy with the true meaning of Christmas at the heart of it all.

It’s from the web site, www.xmasfun.com, contributed by Jocee Vreeland:

“Very late on this magical night

He and his reindeer take flight.

With a “Ho-Ho-Ho” and some simple toys

He brings laughter and joy to girls and boys.

He is a reminder to those here on Earth

Of the very first Christmas and a Child’s birth.

He reminds us of the gifts they gave

And of the lives the Child would save.

So when you hear the bells on Christmas Day

Bow your heads and begin to pray.

Pray for love and pray for peace.

Pray that these gifts will only increase.”

Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noel, Fröehliche Weihnachten, and Feliz Navidad.