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Holiday Excitement May Overwhelm Young Children

Holiday Feature


DENTON — The holidays can be an exciting time for children as they anticipate gifts and visits to grandma’s, but young children may be overwhelmed by all the activity, turning excitement into anxiety.

Dr. Shelley Jackson, assistant professor of family sciences at Texas Woman’s University, says children benefit when they can stick to a schedule. Even though a schedule is difficult to keep during the holidays, she said, consistency will give children some sense of security.

“Get information from their teacher or daycare provider about the activities of the day — what time they have their snack, nap time and play time — and stay as close to that schedule as possible,” Dr. Jackson said

Parents also should prepare for visits in advance. Dr. Jackson recommends talking with those whom they’ll be visiting, discussing such issues as safety (Is the home childproof?) and concerns about valuable and breakable objects in the home. The hosts may have their own holiday traditions, so children should be told what to expect, she added.

As families gather for the holidays, young children may be overwhelmed by seeing so many relatives, some of whom they might meet for the first time. Dr. Jackson recommends taking the child into another room, giving him or her the opportunity to get away for a while. However, she added, “At the first sign a child is misbehaving, it’s time to leave.”

Traveling with children during the holidays can be stressful for parents, and children can pick up on that stress, Dr. Jackson said. When flying, she recommends booking direct flights, if possible, and bringing along toys that will hold the child’s interest. While waiting for their flight, parents may take advantage of family rooms found in many airports. These rooms feature cribs and toys for children, she said.

Traveling by car can be made less stressful by playing games, whether electronic handheld games or guessing games played by the entire family. Stopping for breaks also may help.

Dr. Jackson said parents can avoid much of the stress the holiday season brings by doing only those activities that are meaningful to them.

“Before the holidays start, discuss what’s important for you to do,” she said. “Establish a tradition for your immediate family. Your extended family may have trouble accepting your decisions, but these are boundaries you need to set.”

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For Further Information Contact:

Karen Treat
Senior Copywriter
Tel: (940) 898-3456
e-mail: ktreat@twu.edu