The holidays can bring up a mix of emotions for people. Depending upon your temperament, you may love the added celebrations and time spent with family, or you may feel drained and overwhelmed by the sheer amount of socializing that occurs. Now, imagine your child experiencing the same festivities. It’s easy to see how large and small gatherings could overwhelm a child and make them uncomfortable.
As parents, we can’t always alleviate our children’s pain. As much as we’d like to, we can’t forever shield them from the outside world. But, we can give them tools that make them feel comfortable and maybe even enjoy themselves during busy holiday gatherings. Here are four things you can do to help your child navigate the social aspect of the holiday season.
Practice Strategies In Advance Of The Season
Often, it’s fear of the unknown that scares children (and adults) the most. When they walk into a crowded room and don’t have a clue what to expect or how to respond, their fear grows bigger and bigger until it starts to feel out of control. There are a couple of ways to help your child practice for the social excitement of the holidays. First, you can expose them to regular outings with other children and adults so they can begin to strengthen their socializing muscles. Gaining experience will give them a tool kit to better understand how to respond when they’re overwhelmed or need a break.
Tell them exactly what to expect. Do you know who will be present at Thanksgiving dinner or what to expect from the Christmas parade? Preparing them well in advance for what to expect is a great tool for relaxing anxieties. For some kids, it’s helpful to role-play the scenario so they feel ready when the actual event takes place.
Empower Your Kids To Take Breaks
Have you ever felt the urge to step away from a crowded party to catch your breath for a moment? Let’s normalize our children’s need to take a break from socializing. Offer yourself a safe place for your children to come when they need a break. Rather than trying to force them to play with children or spend time with Great Aunt Margaret, acknowledge their discomfort and give them permission to come back to you whenever they need a few minutes of respite from the excitement.
Be Realistic When Scheduling Your Family
If you have a child who struggles with large crowds or loud environments, you must consider that when you book your family calendar. One way I help my child during the holidays is to schedule only one big weekly event. That may mean we have to skip some activities that would have been fun, but it also helps us preserve our energy and really enjoy the activities we take part in. It’s easy for us as parents to feel social pressure to participate in every community activity or party to make the most of the holidays for our kids. Release yourself from that pressure and remember who you’re parenting.
Many of the questions parents ask start with the phrase, “How do I help my child”? Your desire to help your child is a testament to your care and concern as a parent. A great way to help your child is to ensure they have the services they need to navigate the world around them. If your child needs therapy services, we would love to help. Our team of licensed therapists is highly qualified to treat a wide variety of behavioral issues and diagnoses. We welcome you to call our office any time to see if we can help you and your family.