How stress affects children during the holidays

December can trigger some of the most stressful or high anxiety periods of the year and there is usually little attention given to how it impacts children.

“This time of the year it is even more stressful because of the expectations of the adults,” said Dr. Diane Calloway-Graham, Professor of Social Work at Utah State University and a therapist at The Family Place here in the valley.

“We as adults are trying to manage multiple relationships and expectations this time of year related to parties or gifts. There are sometime conflicts involved and we should not expose children to these type of conflicts and do better conflict resolution so kids don’t get trapped in our stress.”

Dr. Calloway-Graham said, as a therapist, she is a real believer in being sure children have an opportunity to make a transition.

“As an example, if we know things are coming up we ought to tell children what the plans are. Often time children don’t know what’s happening, but all of a sudden they are just being taken somewhere. And yet, their anticipation was that they just wanted to be at home and play.”

She said the adults in these childrens’ lives need to make sure they better balance things for the kids in terms of, first, communicating what will happen during the holidays and secondly giving them plenty of transition time or time to have their needs met.”

She said any time of the year adults need to pare down their to-do lists.

“Sometimes we get so task oriented we forget about relationships. Kids just want to feel connected, they just want to have fun. So at this time of the year they want to enjoy the spirit of Christmas.”

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