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Common holiday stressors for children and how to work around them.

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

It is that time of the year! As we head to visit friends and family or maybe even take a nice holiday trip, we often forget that our children are also doing the same things with us. The holidays can be a tough time for young children who experience anxiety. A change in routine and not knowing what to expect, questions from relatives about school amongst other things can cause some chaos in their inner worlds. What is even tougher is their inability to express how they feel!

Here are some common holidays stressors for children and what you can do to help them through the holiday season!

The Holiday season is an intense time!

Think about how worn out we frequently feel following the holidays. Leading up to the big day like Christmas is usually filled with a lot of anticipation, excitement, impatience, and both good and bad stress! We notice increased energy levels in the household and greater community. Children also feel this on numerous levels and may not have the opportunity to unwind or communicate this to you.

How to work around this?

Include times to relax and unwind in your plans, but be there for your child as well to help them learn to calm down. Giving them the means to do so is more important than simply telling them to "calm down." A brief yoga pose, deep breathing while counting breaths, guided imagery meditation, or progressive relaxation are all excellent techniques for teaching kids to become aware of their bodies and how to turn off the stress reaction.

“Go Hug Your Aunt!”

Children may find it difficult to interact with large groups of family members at once and with relatives, they haven't seen in a very long time. They might feel compelled to be polite or obligated to do so or even requested to freely give hugs and kisses to people they fundamentally view as strangers.

How to work around this?

Respect your child's ability to choose how, when, and with whom they will interact. Recognize that if they want to avoid direct interaction with someone they are not yet comfortable with, they are not being malicious or impolite. Remember that they may not have the same experiences with the relative that you do, and give them time to come to know the new person on their own terms.

The transition phase will be made easier for everyone if the urge to encourage them to respond to unfamiliar relatives based on their personal bond with the individual is removed.


Holidays often have a way of serving as a reminder of people who are no longer with us. Children in particular may be especially prone to this as they visit friends and family, which in turn can become a triggering situation at this time of year. Family members who are also grieving may be incapable of providing the support that children require on an emotional level.

How to work around this?

Simply acknowledging how "different" the holiday is without this person can have a powerful and healing effect. You can establish new routines in the person's memory and help your children come up with unique strategies to deal with the amplified memories and emotions during this period. This is a constructive way to express grief. Discuss frankly and honestly any customs that might be altered. It is important to allow both yourself and your child to cry and be sad rather than pretend those feelings don't exist.

Separated Families:

Holiday tensions can be particularly high and challenging for families dealing with divorce, and custody issues. Parental disloyalty issues and decisions on where your child will spend particular holidays are observed and absorbed by your little ones. Your children are particularly prone to experiencing loneliness, dread, and uncertainty.

How to work around this?

The best course of action in cases of divorce or separation is to stay impartial and cooperative. Additionally, give your children as much of a say as in choosing where they want to spend each holiday. It is crucial that children experience a sense of ownership over this unique period. Encourage your child to keep diaries, take photos, and create scrapbooks or other holiday-related documentation so they can share it with their loved ones when they return. Increase connection times, provide assurances, and use as many alternative forms of communication as you can (email, letters, video calls).

Routine Changes:

While thrilling and delightful, the holidays nonetheless represent disruptions to your child's routine of daily life. The shifts aren't always predictable and can actually make a child feel unstable. A child's senses are extremely aroused by late hours, novel experiences, long bedtimes, and travel, and eventually they start to behvae erratically. Parents frequently notice an increase in tantrums and behaviours that could be regarded as unpleasant around this time.

How to work around this?

Remember that a child's out-of-control behaviour is frequently a way of them saying, "I can't handle this anymore." No matter how enjoyable the holidays may seem, try not to fill your child's day with too many activities. Set limits on how many errands you run in a day, how many family members you visit throughout the holidays, and how many people you expose your children to in a short amount of time. Knowing your child's boundaries

Also keep in mind that some children are naturally introverted, so giving them some alone time will help them recharge. During a family visit, it is completely fine to allow a child to play quietly and unsupervised in a separate room. It is almost certain that the youngster will return to the gathering refreshed and ready to participate once more.

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