Cue the white lights, cheerful festivities and holiday cheer. The world has a way of growing brighter and more magical this time of year. It’s no wonder why, as October dwindles down and the ghouls go back to sleep, restless excitement begins to spark within us. There are endless things to look forward to during the impending festivities, from reconnecting with loved ones to holiday baking and ornate decorations. With an abundance of excitement, however, comes the potential for anxiousness. In order to truly get the most enjoyment from the season, make your family’s mental health a priority.
Don’t Feel Obligated to Be Cheerful
Before the Thanksgiving festivities officially begin and kick off the holiday season, have a one-on-one conversation with your children about expectations for the upcoming weeks. Make it known to them that they have the right to opt out of any festivities should they feel overwhelmed emotionally or physically exhausted. Help them understand that their not wanting to participate in every event does not make them a grinch nor will it warrant a negative consequence. This conversation is especially important if your child struggles with a diagnosed mental health concern. Educate yourself on tips for managing their challenge during times of heightened stress and work to create plans that can alleviate this.
For events that you simply cannot opt out of, work with your family to develop a course of action if your child begins to experience stress during the festivity. If you’re at a family member’s house, locate a room that your child can retreat to so as to provide quiet relief from the commotion. If you’re out at a public venue, go to the bathroom or sit in the car for a few minutes to break up the stress throughout the night. Allowing your child to have the option to not be in the mood for holiday cheer will provide a feeling a comfort before the season even begins.
Plan Smaller Celebrations
The holidays often times convince us that everything needs to be done through grand gestures and on a larger scale than done throughout the rest of the year. Although it’s fun to participate in bigger events that make this time of year special, don’t feel obligated to focus on these activities.
The holidays are for spending quality time with your loved ones, and it’s especially important to place your immediate household as your main priority. Plan low-stress, festive activities for your household to enjoy together. Warm up the kitchen by turning on the oven and spending the afternoon baking your favorite cookie recipes. Prepare to decorate the house for Thanksgiving by having a crafting day with your children. There are tons of mental health benefits associated with art, allowing your family to decompress while creating fun decorations they can enjoy throughout the season. After a long day of decorating, enjoy a cozy night inside by turning on some holiday movies. There are tons of wholesome family movies to truly bring the spirit of the season to your home without elevating stress!
Keep Your Routine
Routine is incredibly important for managing mental health, especially during hectic times. Keep in mind that just because you have an event to attend, you don’t have to compromise your entire routine. Adapting to sudden changes in schedule may be easier for you, but can prove detrimental to your children who may be too young to handle the emotional stress this can bring about.
If you are attending a party at noon and know that the host will most likely serve the meal until three or four, make sure your children are appropriately fed prior to going. If your children typically eat at noon, give yourself permission to arrive late so as to ensure your family can still adhere to their schedule. Remember that it’s okay to place your family’s health before punctuality. If you’re attending an event that you know will go well into the night, make a point of leaving earlier than other guests so as to help your children maintain their sleep schedule. Lack of sleep only intensifies any stress they may feel, and uncomfortable fatigue isn’t worth the extra two hours spent at the party!
Forgive Yourself for Not Saying Yes to Every Invitation
You may find yourself in a predicament where your family has had an abundance of invitations extended to them, but only so little time to attend every affair. Make a point of prioritizing these events and only committing to the most important ones. Aim to only participate in one large affair per weekend to prevent placing stress on your family from hopping between parties, and allowing for at least two evenings where you can spend intimate time as a household.
Turning down an invitation may be uncomfortable. It never feels good to disappoint a friend, neighbor, or family member, especially during the holidays. Forgive yourself for not being able to juggle all the festivities and find comfort in knowing that your immediate family’s mental health will ultimately benefit from the decision to be selective.