From Kids’ First Years
Alexandria, VA – Thanksgiving officially kicks off the holiday season, and calendars will be filled with festive events featuring food, fun, and family time. However, the hustle and bustle of this busy time of year can cause parents with young children to feel stressed and anxious instead of calm and peaceful.
To help families in Alexandria embrace the holidays with a maximum of love and a minimum of stress, Kids’ First Years reached out to one of its community partners, the City of Alexandria’s Early Childhood Services, for some tips to share with parents and caregivers when time-crunched schedules threaten to derail the holiday spirit.
Below are some excellent suggestions from Chrishonna Greene, LCSW and program manager of the City’s Parent & Infant Education Program (PIE):
Manage your big emotions. One of the most important things you can do before engaging with your child is to check in with your own feelings. Reflect and ask yourself, “How am I feeling?” and “Do I have the ability to stay calm, kind, and loving?” Once those questions are answered, you can be more mindful about interactions with your little ones. How we feel as parents impacts how our children experience us.
Take care of yourself. If we want to create warm, positive memories for our children during the holiday season, we must first be well ourselves. If you are not in the best emotional place, take some time for self-care. Getting enough sleep, exercise, and nutritional food is essential to self-care and surrounding yourself with positive people. Most important, take time to create opportunities for joy and peace for yourself and your family.
Spend time together as a family. There are lots of rich cultural experiences, rituals, and traditions that Alexandria’s families observe from Thanksgiving through mid-January. Popular holiday activities include going to concerts, driving through neighborhoods to look at the lights, baking cookies and other seasonal treats, and decorating around the house, to name a few. If you don’t already have rituals in place, invite your children to create new family traditions that they’ll look forward to each year. Many activities, such as baking, reading holiday books, and making decorations or greeting cards, can be very beneficial to a child’s development.
Rely on local resources if needed. Throughout the year, families try to be self-sufficient without asking for help. However, extra support is often needed over the holidays, especially if day-to-day demands, entertainment, and holiday hoopla seem overwhelming. One way to minimize stress is to reach out to local resources, many of which can provide family fun and financial relief opportunities. To connect with Kids’ First Years and its community partners that support families with young children, visit kidsfirstyears.org.
Manage expectations of your child and yourself. To lessen the stress associated with gift-giving, talk to your children about what they may or may not expect to experience during the holiday season. When sharing what may be possible, include activities and experiences that align with your financial truth.
Bonus Tip: Sign Up for Basics Insights
Basics Insights is a free text messaging tool that provides two weekly texts tied to one of The Basics principles. Here are some examples from The Basics Principle #1 – Maximize Love, Minimize Stress:
- Think ahead about stressful situations. Plan for how you can improve or avoid them. Take snacks or a book on errands (such as holiday shopping), so your child has something to do. Avoid trips to the store right before naptime.
- Take some time to let go of stress. Close your eyes, sit comfortably, let your mind settle. Take slow, deep breaths, filling up your belly and exhaling slowly. Silently count your breaths or repeat a calming word like “peace.” Notice your feelings but don’t judge them.
- Think about what really matters and what doesn’t. Let your child wear the shirt backward if that will make life easier while you’re involved in a holiday task.