Lots of parents are especially stressed in the final weeks of December. How can we help? Sometimes a simple suggestion is all it takes to give a parent the permission to hit the reset button on the holiday season:
Simplify. Reduce the number of gifts you give. Don’t worry about sending cards this year. Cut out a few of the tasks you find stressful so you can focus on things that actually bring you (and your family) joy.
Give experiences, not things. Crowds, traffic and time constraints can make it anything but enjoyable to be shopping for last-minute items this week. Consider buying tickets to an event or passes for a local museum that you can enjoy together in the new year.
Remember it’s okay to say no. If a quiet evening at home wrapping gifts and watching a movie is what your family needs, say NO to the party you were supposed to attend. Protect your time (and sanity) by scheduling downtime this week when you and your children need it most.
Offer the gift of creativity (and time with you!) Let kids take the lead for a last-minute task this week, like decorating cookies, wrapping gifts or signing cards. The point is not perfection, but traditions that focus on time together and being kind and generous to those you love.
Take care of yourself. Are you staying active, getting fresh air and eating healthy? Have you taken a few moments to read, talk with a friend, pray or meditate?
We invite you to download and share our Holiday Stress fact sheet in ENGLISH or SPANISH to share with the parents you know. Words of encouragement and understanding can be a wonderful gift this time of year!
It’s December — are parents around you looking a little more frazzled? Stress is an issue for families all year long, but during the holidays it can reach a fevered pitch. Here are some of our favorite tips and resources to share with the families in your community:
Remember that resilient families are better able to handle stress and other challenges that come their way. Choose a couple of resilience-builders to try this month when many of us need our resilience the most! Create a “Strengths Family Tree” or spend time before bed talking about one positive thing that happened during the day. Get more Resiliency tips here.
Parents, take care of yourself this season! Your kids are watching you and will follow your lead when it comes to things like sleep, healthy eating and busy schedules. Choose some Self Care steps here.
Recognizing, understanding and reacting to stress is not an easy job! If parents need some help on-the-go, download SCAN’s Parent Resource Center App. They can access all of the content above no matter where they are in their holiday travels! Download the App on iTunes or GooglePlay.
The average child spends LESS THAN 10 MINUTES each day outside for unstructured playtime. At the same time, we watch as the children we serve face increased stress levels, mental health issues, rising levels of obesity and huge amounts of time spent on computers and other devices.
Nature Deprivation happens when children (and adults, too!) aren’t spending enough time outside and face negative physical, mental and behavioral health consequences because of it.
> Follow the Children & Nature Network on Facebook to learn more about the research and science behind Nature Deprivation, as well as helpful ideas, activities and opportunities happening in other communities.
> Remind parents that they will benefit from fresh air and activities too! Ask parents how they can “unplug” with their kids, while spending quality time together and being physically active. It’s a win-win-win! Download our Unplug with Your Child fact sheet in English or Spanish for guidance and ideas.
Have you seen children and families benefit from more time outdoors, more fresh air and more activities in the great outdoors? We’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments section below.
“Parents find themselves scattered over the holidays. Sometimes we forget that children need our time more than ever when things become hectic. We can give the gift of attention every day, without paying a penny to a toy store. Parents will find joy in the way a child’s eyes light-up during the 15 to 30 minutes set aside to read together or play a simple board game. Those few minutes lay the foundation of connection to children, and show love more than any Lego set or teddy bear.”
Remember your stress can become your children’s stress.
“It’s a stressful time for many people. And even though we love our kids and they are lots of fun, they often magnify that stress. Even worse, our stress can trickle down to them, turning a happy holiday into a Noel nightmare.”
“We’ve always done three gifts per person for Christmas, and no more. Our kids know to expect this, which means they know there’s a finite amount to the spoils they can expect. Many other families do a “want, need, wear, read” tradition, and I dig that, too. Whatever the route you take, I find that setting—and then communicating about—a firm limit on quantity helps keep expectations realistic.”
“Someone — a parent, grandparent or in-law –will be unhappy. But, as a rule, the children will not be — and it’s the little things that they will remember, like time spent playing a board game or teaching you to operate their toys.”
“Negative memories of past seasons sometimes resurface during the holidays, often adding more stress…Surround yourself and your children with safe, supportive people. Being with others can provide strength and nurturing during a difficult time.”
One of the constant challenges of parenting today is time management. Families have busy schedules, often juggling multiple jobs and endless activities, and can really struggle to spend quality time together.
How can we better support parents in their efforts to connect with their kids while still handling the stress and schedule of daily life? Here are 4 key issues we address with parents (and links to additional resources on our Parent Resource Center) that can help:
It is possible to balance parenthood and work. It’s not always (never?) easy, but there are steps you can take that 1.) put parenting first, and 2.) tackle everything else based on that priority. Our Balancing Parenthood & Work page has a list of these steps along with encouragement for the overwhelmed parent.
Develop your family’s routine. We can’t entirely avoid stress from time to time, and that’s why it is so important to develop family routines. Having a general schedule in place each day helps children feel safe and secure, and can be incredibly helpful in making sure families have quality time (dinner around the table, reading books at night, etc.) every day, even if it’s just 15 consistent minutes each day. The Importance of Routines should not be underestimated.
Understand what family stress is, and what it can do. If a parent is feeling stressed, their children are most likely feeling the effects. Family Stress can wreak havoc on quality time together, making healthy communication and positive discipline — keys to connecting — next to impossible.
Time together doesn’t have to be perfect. Family life is messy and hard and that’s okay. We work to help parents understand that just being there is the first, most important step. If a parent struggles with what to do in that time, we share The Power of Play — a great page with simple suggestions of activities, based on children’s ages and interests.
Since the launch of our Kids Need Connections campaign, we’ve talked a lot about connecting with kids to build their resiliency. And the first step always has to be to make the time to connect.
Publishing this post just a few days before the biggest holiday week of the year might feel like perfect timing. Or it may feel as though your family (like many of us) finds itself so caught up in the craziness of school programs, work parties and endless to-do lists that you won’t even have time to sit down and read a blog post, let alone check out the links we provide below. But we’re making a special request to parents: please take a moment to do so.
The holidays are a mixed bag: families have the opportunity to spend extra time together, share traditions and celebrate special cultural and religious events. But they can also max out our already busy schedules and make us feel like we’re never doing quite enough to make it special for those we love. Holidays can also be just plain painful if they remind us of financial difficulties, strained relationships or the loss of loved ones.
Nevertheless, here we are. This year, why not gift yourself the time and tips to keep the focus on your family (rather than the gifts or party invitations or endless other things it can turn into)? Click here for fact sheets on Holiday Stress, Family Stress and Helping Children Manage Stress. And then, take just a few minutes to consider trying one of these tips this year:
1. Ask your kids how they feel about the holidays. Are they over-tired? Stressed? Have they had a chance to spend a quiet night at home with you recently?
2. Set family priorities. If you talk about options together (baking Christmas cookies at home vs. attending a large party, for example) you can make decisions together. And your kids’ answers might surprise you!
3. See the opportunity in front of you! Many children are home from school and parents take time off from work over the next two weeks. Try and plan one or two special, family-focused events to enjoy together. Even just a mid-day walk around your neighborhood or cooking a meal together can be a nice break from the fast-paced routine of daily life.
4. Give a gift with lasting value. Sure, you’ve probably already purchased the latest video game or toy for your child. But why not write them an end-of-year letter about why you love them and how they’ve made you proud over the past year? Enclose an old photo or two and read it together during a quiet moment at home.
Remember: no family is perfect. Neither are the holidays. Do what you can to make your time together full of meaning, not stress. Your kids will thank you for that some day.