School Psych Made Simple

Surviving The Season

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Although the weather outside isn’t exactly frightful yet, we are in the throws of the holiday season! The songs and carols make it sound like it is all fun and games…"The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!", right?? Well for both parents and kids alike, this month can be one of the most stressful times of the year!

Parents, do you look at your calendars and wonder how you are going to fit a load of end-of- the season sports parties, scouting outings, fund-raising galas, office parties and family gatherings into three weekends? How do you fit in shopping for presents, cleaning, and decorating, let alone getting through the mundane work week with things like homework and making dinner?? It seems daunting and certainly stressful. We push ourselves to the limits of what is humanly possible - starting with getting up at 4:00 am for the Black Friday sales at Kohls and staying up past midnight wrapping presents before the first night of Chanukkah or Christmas morning. We wind up committing to things that we probably should say no to. Our desire to be a part of the crowd, or to appear helpful or to be recognized as an involved parent or co-worker may force us into uncomfortable situations in which we may feel we have no choice but to say yes to whatever the request is. According to Christine Carter, PhD., author and senior fellow at the Greater Good Science Center, there are ways to make saying “no” feel less uncomfortable. Being prepared with these strategies can really help to de-stress the most wonderful time of the year!

One other thing I try to remember during this jam-packed month is to "press pause" now and then. What I mean by this is to get off the fast track and stop, breath and listen! My mind is constantly racing with things to do and places to be and lists to make and cross off that I can feel scattered and overwhelmed. Sometimes I just need to "press pause" and slow the pace down. Doing some informal meditation or taking a walk in the evening are the perfect ways for me to unwind and destress. The listening part is also important! Way too often I find myself barking orders to my family or even to myself to get things done during this time of year because it always feels like time is running out! Instead of shouting, I try to stop and listen to my kids or my colleagues or my spouse. Really listen! This can give you valuable insight into what they are experiencing and feeling and your thoughtful response may be just what they need - to be understood!
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Kids feel the stress too!

So while we are trying to maintain our composure and not unravel like a string of tree lights or garland, our children can be exquisitely attuned to what we are experiencing. For anxious kids, the social demands of parties and dealing with relatives that may be jolly but overbearing may send them straight down Anxiety Alley! For other kids, the anticipation of the holidays is so great (and let's not even think about the depressing effect of the post-holiday blues!) they struggle to process and verbalize feelings of stress. They internalize it instead. For children, stress tends to manifest as headaches, stomachaches, sleep disturbance, changes in eating habits and IRRITABILITY. It's important to watch children carefully during the holiday season. They might not say what they're feeling, but they will show it. Katie Hurley, LCSW shares some tips on how to help kids with their holiday stress. Most importantly - take care of yourself!