Mental Health Tips for the Holidays

by: Dan Florell, Ph.D.

The mother was thinking about everything that needed to get done before Christmas and the holidays. First, she had to make sure all of the kids had their presents and stocking stuffers. Then, she needed to go to the grocery store to pick up food and ingredients for the meals and snacks that everyone enjoys. Third, her husband had to pick up their relatives from the airport. While that was going on, she and the kids had to make the cookies and pies. The list in her head continued to lengthen.

She thought, “When is this holiday supposed to be enjoyable? I just work harder than I usually do. I just feel so stressed and worn out by this whole process.”

The mother’s feelings are quite typical for parents during the holidays. However, the holiday season does not have to be this way. There are several tips for parents that can change the holidays back to being a more enjoyable experience.

The first tip is for parents to take care of themselves. Children pay close attention to their parents’ emotional well-being. If parents start to feel stressed and become irritable and lash out at others, children will model similar behaviors when they start feeling stressed. The better parents can cope with stress and model good behaviors, the better their children will cope.

A second tip is to make a plan on focusing on one thing at a time. Unlike the mother with her on-going to-do list, parents should adopt a couple of ideas from the practice of mindfulness. This means stopping and focusing their attention to what is happening at the moment and the feelings that go along with it. Taking that break will lead to more enjoyment and better memories that parents will cherish later on.

A third tip is to try and keep children’s household routines the same. While the holidays are an exciting time for children with special events and visitors in and out of the house, it is still important to keep to a regular schedule. This is particularly true regarding children’s sleep and mealtime schedules. When either of those is disrupted, it can lead to cranky and irritable children.

A fourth tip is for parents to avoid feeling pressured to over-spend on gifts. Homemade gifts and crafts from the children to grandparents and relatives are often the most treasured gifts and it can lessen the financial stress of parents in giving store-bought presents to everyone.

While the holidays are typically a time to be around family and spend quality time together, it can also be a time for some families to remember loved ones lost. These families have experienced significant losses during the holiday season and they may feel that sense of loss, along with feelings of isolation and sadness. Families that have these losses should acknowledge them and seek out support rather than trying to put on a brave face and pretend nothing is wrong.

Following these tips can provide parents and their families with a more enjoyable Christmas and holiday season. After all, the important part of the holidays is to spend time with family and enjoy being in each other’s company.  Take out a board game, put together a puzzle, or visit with relatives, neighbors and friends and have a good time.

This article was published in the Richmond Register daily Friday on December 11, 2015

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *