Get a Handle on Holiday Blues
Nov 07, 2013 03:00PM
The stereotypical Norman Rockwell holiday scenario, comprised of shopping trips to malls decorated with shiny ornaments and shimmering, twinkling lights and crowds of cheerful holiday shoppers with brightly wrapped packages is a joy for many, but for some, it can lead to stress, wellness concerns and even serious health problems. For children with developmental delays or that are already hypersensitive to sensory input, it can be seriously harmful, triggering a meltdown in the middle of the shopping mall.
At home, coming together with out-of-town relatives at family tables filled with rich food and drink and celebrating with friends and neighbors at late-night gatherings can lead to major tantrums during a festive family dinner.
Children that are already prone to sensory issues, like children with ADHD, autism spectrum disorders and pervasive development disorders really suffer at the holidays. They want to participate in the joys of the season as much as anyone, but it may beharmful to their health and well-being, as well as to their behavior.
Brain Balance Achievement Centers have helped thousands of children reach their physical, social/behavioral health and academic potential by offering an individualized and comprehensive approach to helping children with such neurobehavioral and learning difficulties as ADD/ADHD, dyslexia and Asperger’s. The center’s owner, Dr. Roger Clifford, says, “While children who have such problems may be more seriously affected, most childrentend to suffer from overload at the holidays. Parental stress levels are up, tolerance is down and the children get caught in the middle.”
Here are some ideas to treat or prevent holiday stress that apply to all children, and adults could benefit from them, as well.
Don’t overschedule. The holidays add numerous events to the child/family activity list, and young children especially don’t get much choice in what they want to do. Most kids have difficulty keeping up with a normal schedule; holiday activities, no matter how much fun they are, can over-stimulate and overwhelm a child’s system.Try to maintain a normal, non-holiday schedule as much as possible.
Plan ahead. Children are better able to tolerate new activities and busy schedules if they know the plan up front. Sharing the scheduling and planning well in advance helps them transition to each event. Let them know things may get hectic, but that it also will be enjoyable.
Pace activities. This is an important part of planning and scheduling. Prioritize activities and don’t feel badly about dropping some of theless significant events. Missing a holiday brunch in favor of a rest and a quiet, nutritious meal at home may mean a child will enjoy the afternoon’s event a lot more.
Focus on nutrition. Everyone tends to over-indulge during the holidays. And a lot of what we eat isn’t very high on the healthy nutrition scale. There’s nothing wrong with some special treats, but otherwise stick with a healthy, well-balanced, nutritional diet, which will go a long way toward overcoming holiday stress.
Reduce screen time, maintain dream time. Just because school’s out doesn’t mean a child gets to spend excessive time in front of an electronic device of any sort. From TV to phones and game machines, limit screen time. Meanwhile, although a couple of late nights may be inevitable during the holidays, sleep schedules need be maintained. This goes for older teens, too, as well as toddlers and tots.
Exercise. Have kids use the extra time off school to get out more and engage in physical activities. Depending on the location, get them to ride a bike or build a snowman. Depending on their age, have them take the dog on long walks or shoot hoops in the driveway.
While all children and adults might suffer from the overstimulation of the holiday season, parents should be aware of behaviors that seem out of the norm. “Children who have meltdowns that are frequent and intense may be exhibiting symptoms of something more than holiday stress,” suggests Clifford.
Debby Romick is the director of the Brain Balance Achievement Center of Plano. For more information, call 972-248-9482 or visit BrainBalancePlano.com.