Keep the holidays peaceful and joyous by remembering your child’s need for a routine

Children are subject to anxiety and stress during the chaos of holidays. Remember their need for routine, nutrition and outdoor play to keep their mood merry and bright.

With the holidays upon us, family routines can be unpredictable which could cause challenges with the moods and behavior of young children.

I remember a difficult holiday when my oldest daughter was two. After an evening of gift giving and visiting with family members, a late dinner just became too much for her. By the time dinner was served, she was in full tantrum mode and we had to leave just as dinner was put on the table.

Reflecting back on that holiday, by making a few small changes to the day, I could have better met her emotional and nutritional needs to allow for her to be successful. The key to minimizing stress during the holidays for your child is to maintain your routine, provide healthy food choices and offer opportunities for your child to run and play.

Parents understand the importance of routines and how they can impact a child’s behavior and sleep. During the holidays, routines are often left by the wayside for late family gatherings, long days of travel and disrupted meal patterns.

To minimize holiday stress with your child, Michigan State University Extension suggests working to resume routines to normal as soon as possible. After a late night family gathering, provide quiet, calm activities the next day and get your child to bed on time the next night.

Typically the holidays bring delicious family meals that contain our favorite traditional holiday treats. Between all the extra sugary snacks and desserts coupled with the irregular meal times, it is very easy for your child to eat less healthy. Be sure to provide nutritious snacks like fruits, vegetables or whole grains before holiday gatherings and while on-the-go.

Also do your best to maintain your child’s level of activity by getting fresh air and plenty of outside time. Traveling and holiday gatherings don’t allow for as much active play for children as they typically get. The same can be said for adults too! A solution to this would be to start some new family traditions during your gatherings to increase everyone’s physical activity. Head outside and make a snow fort or organize a sledding party or friendly family snowball fight. This will improve everyone’s mood and alleviate stress while also getting in some necessary physical activity.

Holiday gatherings are wonderful times to celebrate family, friends and love. Remembering that children are subject to anxiety and stress just as adults are during the holidays is important. By creating an environment of success with routine, healthy eating and exercise, children will form favorable holiday memories that are the true gift during the holidays.

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