Between the breaks in routine, extra treats, and overall excitement, the holidays are a perfect storm for elevated anxiety in our kids. Elevated anxiety can lead to more defiance and meltdowns–extra gifts we could go without.
Consider the following techniques for keeping your child’s anxiety in check.
- Extended exhales. Research shows that deep breathing (especially extended exhales) activate the part of your brain that is responsible for relaxation and well-being. Exhalation also floods our brain with inhibitory neurotransmitters. Challenge your child to see how long he can blow bubbles through a straw into a cup of water. Good, ol’ fashioned bubble blowing is a great activity, too.
- Warm water. Who doesn’t enjoy a long bubble bath or a relaxing shower? Warm water is also effective at activating our biological calming tools. In addition, it allows a reprieve from external stressors. We have a child who takes an hour long bath almost daily to manage his anxiety. The change in his countenance after a bath is amazing.
- Visual Schedules. The unpredictability of the holiday schedule, plus the abstractness of time, creates a lot of anxiety. Creating visual tools for our kids that make time more tangible can decrease anxiety. It’s most effective to have a visual tool for both broad periods of time (i.e., a monthly glance) and for daily happenings (i.e., a daily glance). Note the passage of time with a moving marker or by crossing off events as they happen.
- Essential Oils. Many families rely on essential oils for their calming effect. They can be directly massaged onto children using a carrier oil or diffused into the air using a variety of methods. Be sure to purchase oils that are pure and therapeutic or pharmaceutical grade.
As you guide your kiddos to a land of less anxiety, don’t forget to check your own stress level and use these techniques liberally on yourself as well. We all know that if Mama and Papa ain’t happy, no one is happy! May your holidays be joyful, bright, and a little more relaxed!
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How do you cope with holiday anxiety in your family?