5 Things You Can Do for Your Child During the Holidays
While the holiday season can be a magical time, it can also bring additional stress to families. The holidays bring significant upheaval to your routine. New people will be coming in and out of the house, new foods will be served for dinner, and new activities like exchanging gifts will take place. All of this unpredictable activity and change in routine may make children distressed and anxious.
You can help children enjoy the holidays by preparing them for some of the changes in the routine, the new things they will encounter, and by introducing them to new activities early. Even if you don’t celebrate holiday traditions in the upcoming weeks, this advice can be used for any breaks in routine or special events. Here are five ways you can help your child get ready for the holidays.
1. Use a calendar or schedule to help prepare for changes in routine.
Prior to the holidays, start showing your child the updated schedule or calendar. Hang the calendar or schedule in a place where the child can review frequently. Ask your child’s teacher for their school schedule and try to incorporate snacks and playtime in a similar way. Make sure to keep schedules and routines as consistent as possible. Breaks for school can often be challenging for many children and consistency in routine may ease some of the child's stress and anxiety. If a special holiday or special visitor is coming into town, talk about that upcoming event and plan for extra time to adjust to the new holiday events.
2. Show your child video clips and photographs from past family gatherings.
Prior to the holidays, start showing your child video clips and photographs of large family gatherings from years before. Find old clips of family and friends having fun together and enjoying one another's company and watch them together with your child. Talk with your child about what is happening in the video clips and point out specific traditions or activities that the families engage in.
Watching videos and looking at photographs of what people are doing at gatherings like the one your child will be a part of may help your child know what to expect during the gathering. Remember that the pandemic may have changed ways that we get together for the holidays. If possible, try to anticipate some of the differences that may occur for this holiday season compared to previous years and prepare your loved one for those changes.
3. Practice a "chill out zone" plan.
Designate one room or one area in your home as a "quiet place". Make sure everyone who is coming over knows not to go into that area. Before the holiday, film a video of taking a break and going to the “quiet place”.
During the video, have a family member act out an example of when they could use that space. Show your child how to take a break by filming the family member walking to the "quiet place" and calming down by playing quietly, looking at a book, or shaking off that extra energy. After a moment, have the family member show that they are ready to join the family and film them leaving the "quiet place" and coming back to the group.
Prior to the holiday, show this video to your child several times as a model of where they can go when feeling overwhelmed by holiday activities. Children will learn that it's okay to take a break and know where to go when feeling overwhelmed. Allow your loved one to use this space whenever they need to use it. Try not to ever make it off limits or bring them out of the area until they are ready to rejoin the group.
4. Show your child videos of things they will see or hear on the holidays.
Prior to the holidays, start showing your child video clips of holiday decorations and sounds to prepare them for the changes to their environment. Talk with your child about the things in the video clips and point out specific decorations or sounds and remind your child when the decorations will be taken down.
We also recommend uploading your own videos to Gemiini to teach your child about the specific objects and sounds they may encounter during the holiday. Remember to check in with your child to see if there are particular sounds that they like or don’t like during the holiday season.
5. Use video modeling to teach your child about opening presents.
Some children may struggle with the process of exchanging gifts. A child may hesitate to open a gift if they have gotten into trouble for tearing pretty paper in the past. Additionally, a child may be uncertain how to react when receiving gifts.
Gemiini has a free YouTube video for the public that teaches children how to open a present and models that the present is for them. It also teaches them to say, "Thank you." Watching this video will help your child understand what to do during the gift exchange.
You can create your own video to show your child exactly what opening gifts, or participating in other holiday traditions, will be like at your house. Wrap your child's gifts with different paper than you are using for everyone else's gifts to help your child know which presents are for him or her. Have your family members sit together where you exchange gifts a few days before and film them as they open each gift you have wrapped for your child.
If traditional foods and stories are shared in your household, be mindful of the attention span and food preferences of everyone in your home. Expect that someone is not going to like Grandma’s famous casserole and won’t be able to tolerate the entire spiritual teaching every night of the holiday. What is the most important memory that you want to share with your child that day? Focus on that and let the other details fall into place.
Appreciate the unique ways that your child celebrates the holiday and responds to new experiences. Those unexpected responses can often be the highlight of the holiday season!
Watch the holiday video with your child several times before the holiday event to show your child how to participate in the family tradition. If possible and appropriate, re-wrap all of your child's presents using the same paper you used in the video. When it's time for the holiday, your child will already know what to expect to participate in the family fun.
Anticipation of an event can build tremendous excitement. With a little preparation, you can help your child anticipate upcoming holidays and transform it from an unpredictable and chaotic event into a joyful and happy experience. ‘Tis the season for enjoying time with your loved ones. Happy holidays from the Gemiini team!