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7 Tips To Make Your Anxious Child's Holiday Go From Naughty to Nice

Thanksgiving has come and gone and we are officially in holiday mode. Whether you choose to travel or stay close to home, the holidays are a great opportunity to spend quality time with family and friends. For kids, the holidays also means schools out. As parents, we know that things can get pretty crazy during this time. So how do you make sure your family gets the most out of the holiday break without sacrificing your sanity? We have compiled a list of tips that will help your family stay on track during the holiday craze.

1. Clear the Clutter

With all the Black Friday shopping and presents, it’s probably a good time to clean out the closet and make room for new things. That is usually a pretty good motivator for kids to go through their old toys and clothes. The “one year rule” is a good rule to go by. If they haven't played with a toy or worn a shirt within the past year, chances are they're never going to. So pick a day before all the presents get unwrapped, have everyone in the family fill a box with items that haven't been used in the past year and donate, donate, donate! In the spirit of the holidays, this is an excellent time to teach kids about thinking of others and giving back. A toy that no longer gets played with might bring a huge smile to a child in need.

2. Sleep Hygiene

According to Children's Hospital of Orange County, children, ages 3-5, generally need between 10-13 hours of sleep, while children, ages 6-13, need between 9-11 hours of sleep, with anxious children usually needing even more. During the holiday break, we suggest aiming for that amount but with some flexibility. It is not the end of the world if your five-year-old gets nine hours instead of his usual ten. However, we have found that it is more important to set a consistent bedtime and wake time schedule. Not only does this set up good structure for the holiday down-time, it also makes the transition back to school easier.

3. Set Reasonable Screen Time

Screen time versus no screen time has become a popular parenting debate topic. In a world dominated by video games, social media and various streaming websites such as Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Amazon, etc., it is hard for kids not to be exposed and intrigued by the endless amounts of content. How do you set a limit on screen time when nearly every adult is plugged into a device or two themselves? It's hard and the holidays are no exception. Just because there is no school doesn't mean it should be a free-for-all. A good rule of thumb is to stay within the rules you have set for your family during school time. If you do choose to allow some extra screen time, pick an activity the entire family can enjoy (i.e., watching a movie or the latest trending videos on YouTube). Not only does this score you some brownie points with your kids, it is also an opportunity for some family bonding.

4. Allow Alone Time

The holidays are a time for family trips and get-togethers. While family time is important, it is okay to let your kids have some time by themselves. Between shopping trips, decorating the house and visiting grandma, kids (and parents) can certainly use a break from one another. Alone time is an opportunity to foster independence and give kids a sense of control. Rather than having parents dictate and plan out what they should be doing, kids can use that time to explore what they like to do or just lay back and wind down both mentally and physically. If your kids are not quite ready to do this by themselves, you can set up activity stations around the house (cue the eye-roll) I know what you're thinking, who has the time and energy to prep and set up a table full of activities? The good news is we don't need to be Martha Stewart. The point is not to have an elaborate set-up but rather present some available options (i.e., coloring or sticker books, costumes and other pretend-play games, arts and craft, etc.). 5. Making Family Traditions

Whether you are traveling or having a staycation, the holidays are a great time to start some family traditions. A tradition doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. In fact, a simple sensory experience can also have great significance. For example, the smell of certain food, a song your family likes to sing together, or a matching set of pajamas for everyone can also signify memorable family time. Tradition can also be a new activity such as: visiting a new state, trying a new restaurant, or picking up a new hobby.

6. Reflecting on the Year

As this year draws to a close, it's important to take some time to reflect and set intentions for the coming year. This activity helps children appreciate what was really important to them (i.e., winning the championship, making new friends, learning a new instrument, etc). Personal reflection can be done in many meaningful ways such as writing a letter to yourself, making a memory box with special mementos, or putting together a photo album. This reflection can also include future goals or things to look forward to as a way to prepare and welcome the New Year. This is a great way for parents to introduce the expectation for new responsibilities and privileges that children will receive in the year ahead.( i.e., “For next year we will expect you to pack your own lunch, but you can choose what snack you want”).

7. Plan Some Free Time Before Going Back to School or Work

Coming back from a couple of weeks of fun-filled (and sometimes harrowing) vacation is not easy. Many have reported experiencing sadness or some form of post-holiday blues when they realize the holiday is over and work is awaiting. Children are certianly no exception. Children and adults alike need a transitional period to recalibrate when going back to the “real world.” Instead of coming back to town a day before school starts, plan at least one or two full days. Kids can use that time to pick out their outfits, get their backpacks ready, and settle down from the holiday excitement. Family can also use this time to process and reminisce about everyone’s favorite part of the holiday.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season!!!!

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