Mother reading to her child

Tips for Creating a Stable Routine for Children during the Holidays

Q&A with Krissy Yanes, NAMI Collier County Parenting Educator and Resilience Specialist

Another holiday season is upon us and our stress levels are climbing. Why is this time of year so stressful? Expectations are heightened, and holidays can feel like a test of how happy and successful your family is. If you have children with mental health conditions or behavioral concerns, even favorite holiday traditions can turn into a test of stamina and patience. Krissy Hanes, a parenting educator and resilience specialist with NAMI Collier County, offers tips for parents to ease stress around the holidays. 

What are some tips to help minimize stress and make the holidays more fun and enjoyable? 

Holidays represent a change in a family’s schedule and routine, and for some children, that can create anxiety. We love the holiday season, but they can also make days stressful, especially for kids who find routine comforting. 

Here are some ideas to help maintain routines: 

  • Try to keep some things constant.  
  • Children will still need a snack time.  
  • Children still need special attention from their caregivers, and they still need a chance to relax before bedtime.  
  • Stay consistent with bedtime routines. 

Routines can be difficult when school is out. How can you help prepare children when routines have to change? 

It’s important to set expectations and tell children what’s happening. This will help ease any fear and anxiety they may have. Creating a schedule of events helps children and family members know what to expect. For little ones, visuals, like photos or pictures of upcoming events, help them understand what will be happening. 

How do you help children create routines when you are traveling? 

If you’re traveling, bring familiar toys and books, and make sure you include one-on-one time like reading before bed. Also make sure to schedule time for physical activity and plenty of downtime. Your children will be grateful – and so will you. 

How can we adjust our own expectations to keep the holidays less stressful? 

Factoring in a child’s frustration level when you make plans will reduce stress on everyone. Be realistic and remember they are children. We schedule lengthy services, parties and meals that may not appeal to picky eaters. Try to keep those to a minimum and customize events for your kids’ frustration level.  

It’s best to try to only schedule one demanding event in a day, so decide what events are important to your family. Also, during the holidays, the preparations are often as fun and as meaningful as the end result. By including children, they won’t feel left out – or be glued to the iPad or television for hours. 

What do parents often forget during the holidays? 

It’s important to have a sense of humor and enjoy your children for who they are! Children pick up on the stress and tension around them and are more likely to be irritable if parents and caregivers are stressed. Keep in mind that the moments you will remember are likely to be the unexpected moments when everybody was relaxed, and not always the lavishly decorated party, dinner or event. 

This article was featured in The News-Press in December 2023.  

For additional tips, watch this WINK News video.  

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