Helping Kids Manage Stress and Expectations at Christmas
Published Tuesday, December 11, 2012 4:30PM EST
The ones for whom Christmas really should offer no stress at all -- your kids -- actually find this time of year much more stressful than you think.
Parents can help children manage their stress and their expectations at Christmas, according to CHEO psychologist Dr. Phil Ritchie.
Ritchie specializes in mood and anxiety disorders, urgent care and helping parents build resilient teens.
Ritchie says it was his own teenage daughter who told him how stressful that first day was, back to school after the Christmas holidays.
“ She said the hardest day is going back to school and finding out what everybody had gotten,” Ritchie recalls. “She said it was tough because she had friends who had gotten tons and tons of stuff and she couldn't compete with that and she found that stressful.”
Remember Ralphie Parker in the 1983 classic “A Christmas Story.” 8-year-old Ralphie wants only one thing for Christmas -- a Red Ryder BB Gun? Today, the obsession is for cellphones, video games and designer clothes.
Dr. Ritchie is urging parents to take a step back, to help kids manage both their stress and their expectations at Christmas.
“What I'm telling parents is that it’s really time to connect with their kids and to offer the gift of their time.”
May sound hokey but a recent survey showed that most teens actually want to spend more time with their parents. Dr.Ritchie says here's how:
“Board games are a great way to spend time with each other. Try volunteering with your kids, doing something for other people,” Dr. Ritchie says. “In fact, we've learned that as we do something for other people and get our kids to do something for others, it provides a greater sense of optimism and improves their chance of resilience.”
Some other tips:
- Spend time with your child/teen, play board games instead of video games. It creates a great setting for parents to chit-chat with kids – keeps lines of communication open that will come in handy down the line.
- Go for a walk (again another chance to chat and exercise to boot, which boosts self-esteem)
- Teach your kids to volunteer – do it together, as a family.
- Equip your child to say ‘we as a family have presents but we also choose to give each other the gift of time spent together.” (Brings you back to the essence of the Holiday season but it is also investing in your family – best investment possible.)
- Message to parents: don’t buy your way into your child’s life. Invest in it by being present.
- Did you know that some kids/youth would happily trade in the latest gadget for some face time with their parents, especially when things get tough?