Children’s Anxiety at Christmas

Getting ready for Christmas 2020 with the kids

Looking through social media, recently, I came across a post from a young mum who was asking “how many presents do you give your children-or how much do you spend on them?” she went on to say that she wanted to make Christmas “ special” as she, herself, had loved Christmas and had wonderful memories, so this started me thinking about how we all think about our own childhoods and how we either want to replicate it as it was so wonderful or completely change it because it was so awful!

Having had a “not so good childhood myself, and several disastrous Christmases, I’ve always tried to make this time of year as special as I could for my kids (but secretly hating it myself ) – but this year I’ve decided to keep it as low key as possible – mainly due to having had a tough year (as we ALL have) with lockdowns and viruses/ working from home etc and just R E L A X !  A nice meal, some good films and yes, of course, a couple of glasses of something nice! Lol

Anxiety at Christmas

However, for some children and teens, the Christmas holidays can be a very anxious time. The main reason is because it means that their usual structured week will be disrupted. They won’t be going to school, probably not going to bed at a regular time and then not getting up at a fixed time every day, not to mention not really knowing what is going to happen every day. (Unless mum or dad tells them of course) Children struggling with autism are more likely to have difficulties with a change in routine, so will have more anxiety. Also, this year especially, with lockdowns and the worry of the virus, many families have already spent an awful lot of time together and at Christmas, family pressure can surface! The little ones will feel the tension, but they may not be able to verbalise it to the parents, so if you do feel that your child may struggle at this time, here are a few tips which might just help take the pressure off:

Talk to your child

Find out what they are worried about, and if there is anything you can do to make it easier for them. The best thing to do is sit and play a game with your child and whilst you are playing just start to talk to them about how they feel about Christmas.

Go outside

Staying constantly in the house is likely to cause tension so try and get out for some good walks. There’s nothing nicer than going out in the winter! Cold and crisp air (as long as it’s not raining!) probably a bit of winter sunshine even though it may be chilly!

Extended Families

If your child has to go and stay with his dad/mum over the Christmas period, make sure he or she knows exactly what the arrangements are. Many children, when they come to see me in my therapy clinic, tell me they dread Christmas because they never know how long they are going to stay with mum/dad and who might be at the other parents house etc. make sure your child knows exactly what is going on – when he is going to be picked up and who by, – how long is he going to stay there and when will he be coming back. I know it’s not always easy when arranging the child’s schedule with ex partners but bare in mind, these are your child’s feelings and emotions and if you can make it easier for him by having a really good working schedule with your ex – you will find that your child will be less anxious and therefore so much happier.

Give your child the space he needs

Your child may become overwhelmed with all the excitement of Christmas so it’s always a good idea to let him have times when he can perhaps sit on his own, read a book, listen to some music, and just chill.

Make family time count

You’ll find that your child will value the time you spend with him far more than any present you give him. It may not seem it but believe me, my daughter remembers the Christmases when I really didn’t have a lot of money – she said “Mum, I know you didn’t have much money when I was really little but I had the best Christmases I promise you – because you made it such fun!”

Take care of YOU too

Looking after YOUR health is important – over- indulgence at Christmas can lead to all sorts of problems – overeating- too much alcohol – too many late nights – children don’t like seeing mummy or daddy drunk or being sick! An anxious child will suffer even more!

You don’t have to keep up with the “Jones’s”

Christmas should be a time when each family does their own thing and enjoys Christmas how THEY want to enjoy it. Some people try and keep up with their friends and neighbours – buying huge trees and decorating them elaborately and buying expensive toys and presents when they can’t afford it. Then they get worried that they have over-spent and their anxiety will show!  Christmas shouldn’t be about that – remember the original story?

If your child is showing signs of anxiety do get in touch with me – he may have:

  • started wetting the bed
  • stool-holding.
  • He may not be sleeping well
  • Go off his food
  • Have angry outbursts
  • Temper tantrums
  • Cry over trivial things
  • Children can’t always communicate with their words so it’s important to notice any little changes.

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