It is normal for our children to experience more stress and worry during the holidays. Among the traditional stressors of everyday life come common seasonal anxieties such as worrying how the family will get along during get-togethers and meals, worrying about getting all the vacation homework done during the longer breaks from school, worrying about losing track of school work during those breaks, the anticipation of holiday rituals and the stresses of waiting for pivotal moments such as lighting your own Hannukah candles or Christmas morning. Sometimes the way the holidays take us away from our normal, predictable routines and throw us into a temporarily busy and chaotic schedule may be enough to throw a child off balance. The most wonderful time of the year can also be the most stressful time of the year for some.
During this time it is important for us to refresh ourselves on the basics of helping our kids deal with worry in practical and grounding ways.
Here are my top Worry Reminders and Anxiety Reducers:
1. Anxiety is not as scary if we understand how it operates. Teaching children to understand how their brain and body work, and how to problem solve is actually teaching them to be resilient — giving them coping skills to deal with life’s inevitable adversity.
2. Advanced and deep thinking kids tend to have active minds and strong feelings, thus making them more susceptible to worry and anxiety.
3. Anxiety can take the form of physical sensations like stomach aches, headaches, and sleep issues; as well as crying, arguing, running away, biting nails, or pulling out hair.
4. The Worry Monster is a bully who tells us scary things to trigger our “fight or flight” response so our body thinks we are in danger when we are not.
5. If we think about our thinking, and change our thinking to a more rational and less scary thought (from: “my mom is going to forget me and I will be stuck here forever” to: “My mom never forgets me even though I worry she might”) it lowers our fear response and we feel more relaxed.
6. Focusing on the present moment is a great way to fight the Worry Monster since all worries occur in the future, which has not happened yet.
7. We can fight the Worry Monster by doing things he doesn’t want us to — go to a party, give a speech, pet a dog, walk over a bridge, or ride an elevator. We can practice these behaviors to feel stronger, more confident and less scared.
8. The Worry Monster is trying to make us scared all the time by bullying our children and us. We can fight back by knowing how he works and having the courage to live our lives and experience all it has to offer.
This article first appeared on Psychology Today.com. Learn more about how to reduce worry in Dr. Dan Peters’ book Make Your Worrier a Warrior: A Guide to Conquering Your Child’s Fears and the companion book for kids From Worrier to Warrior: A Guide to Conquering Your Fears.