How to help kids process holiday emotions

With all the hustle and bustle that goes on around the holidays, they can be overwhelming for anyone, especially children.
Published: Dec. 17, 2021 at 8:19 AM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - With all the hustle and bustle that goes on around the holidays, they can be overwhelming for anyone, especially children.

There is a lot of excitement at Christmas time. All the lights, presents, and music can cause little ones to get overwhelmed. Councilors want you to know a few tips to help your children process their emotions.

First, plan. If you know you are going to be in a crowded store or visiting relatives, talk to your kids about how to behave and what to do if they start to feel overwhelmed.

Next, pay attention to your child’s behavior. If they start to act differently, that could be a clue that they are starting to feel anxious.

“That can look a lot of different ways for different kiddos,” said counselor Bailey Pyle with Burrell Behavior Health. “Whether that be, with little guys, higher energy levels, more irritability or fussiness. For older kiddos like your teenagers, that could be that irritability, isolation more or avoidance of different situations or people in general. You know your kiddo best. Any major changes in behavior are good indicators that there’s maybe something going on.”

Keep your own emotions in check; if you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed, your child probably is too.

“Taking that moment, and pausing and checking in with yourself is always a good place to start,” said Pyle. “Think, how am I feeling with my kiddo in this space? What do I need to be able to respond to them in the best way possible that’s going to help them instead of escalating the situation? Kind of checking in with yourself and then doing the same thing with the kiddo asking, Hey, that’s a big feeling. I wonder what’s going on or if there’s something happening.”

You can also help your child recognize when they feel anxious and tell you if the situation is too much.

“For little guys using examples kind of in their body,” said Pyle. “If you feel like you can’t sit still or if you feel like it’s hard to hear your grown-up’s words, putting it in that form for the little guys may be easier. For teenagers having a codeword if you’re feeling stressed out and overwhelmed and maxed, maybe say Santa Claus is coming to town and that’s our cue that we need to step out or you need a break.”

Finally, have an escape plan if you are in a situation that is just too much for your child to handle. That may be a private room or taking a break in the car, sometimes just getting out of the situation will de-escalate any behavior problems.

If your child is struggling with behavior problems and needs help you can contact Burrell Behavioral Health Connection Center at 1300 E Bradford Pkwy Bldg A, Springfield, MO 65804 (417) 761-5000.

For anyone who needs help right now, they can call our free, 24/7 Crisis Line: 1-800-494-7355

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