Have you noticed an uptick in your child’s struggles in the last week or two?
This may look like increased anxiety, stomach aches, or behaviors that had settled down are back. You may be noticing a greater inability to cope with emotions, situations, or unexplainable irritability.
This is holiday inflammation. Think about some of the pressure you feel around the holidays with changes in schedule, decorations and sensory overload, unusual food choices, and a return to socializing outside our homes.
Add the anticipation of those kids who are expecting Santa, as well as the worry about the “naughty or nice” list. Some kids love that the Elf on the Shelf is watching and displaying funny antics – others, not so much. If your child’s struggles include behavioral dysregulation, the anxiety about trying to manage it to “be good” can actually exacerbate the problem.
So, how can you reduce holiday inflammation?
- Try removing the “naughty or nice” pressure with reassurance that Santa knows when a child is trying their best and that’s all that needs to happen.
- Reduce the social activities if possible, but if you are a lover of family gatherings, create a calm-down plan and place if your child needs a break. Sometimes, it is helpful to go in two vehicles so that one parent can bring the child home when their abilities have worn out, or hire a babysitter and enjoy the gathering yourself worry-free.
- Talk to your child about the expectations when you are going to a family member’s home or a holiday event. Try to preview what the child can expect.
- Have some foods or snacks on hand that you know your child will eat to avoid holiday hangries.
- Allow your child to avoid hugs and kisses from rarely-seen family members by showing them how to give a wave or a high-five instead.
- Advocate for your child and remember that no matter what advice family members give you, you know your child best. In my own experience, I would simply say “I appreciate you trying to help” and then proceed to do what I know my sons needed.
- Don’t fault yourself for allowing a little extra TV or screen time over the next week.
Holiday inflammation is reaching its peak. Provide a little extra patience for your child and for yourself. If things become inflamed, take a break, re-group, and pick up the holiday spirit when everyone is calm again.