Home for the Holidays

Holiday periods, such as the time between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, or family celebrations like weddings and birthdays, are times when we are with our families, times for giving gifts, and time of feasting. These are special occasions of emotional closeness and intimacy with family and friends. In fact, the end December is an old holiday time related to winter solstice and the beginning of the lengthening of days (“rebirth of the sun”).

What happens during holidays and family festivities? Our routines change, our moods change, and there is a mixture of feelings, including:

§ Joy, happiness, and anxious anticipation or/and melancholy, dread

§ Loneliness if alone or if someone is missing; excitement at family get-togethers; but old conflicts with families may get rekindled

§ We may become depressed because we miss someone who has died or left

§ In blended families, conflicts among ex-spouses may resurface

§ Adults may repeat their own conflicted childhoods With their children

Why can times of festivity be stressful? There can be nostalgia for past good times or sadness and regret about bad experiences in our past; there is a deep wish that the new season or the new milestone will lead to resolution of our problems, which may be contrasted with a sense of “things will never change.”

Tackle fears with common sense. If she's scared of dogs, don't hustle her across the street when one is coming. Demystify the fear. ("Oh, a puppy! Let's ask the owner if we can feel how soft his fur is.") In tense moments—shots come to mind—be sympathetic but not too emotional, says Atlanta-area pediatrician Roy Benaroch. Say, "It will be OK. It will be over in a few minutes," not, "I know—it hurts! It hurts!"

One of the major goals of parenting is to provide a background of safety in our children's lives.

How do we do this?

§ Familiar surroundings and predictability (of their actions and words) by the people they know makes it easier for children to feel safe

§ Try to keep the routine as familiar as possible; be aware that trips and visits can be stressful (Many people say after a vacation, “We need a vacation from our vacation.”)

§ Crowds of unfamiliar people can make children anxious, especially if they are shy

§ Grown-up's feelings have a strong impact on children. Children are like sponges; they can soak up parents' feelings, and then react to them. Adults need to recognize that their own feelings will affect their actions. Be open with your feelings to your child, but not too open