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Help kids with holiday stress by maintaining traditions

Hints - Counselor's advice can help parents help their children at this time of year

Most young children look forward to the holiday season with excitement as they anticipate a break from their school routine and fun times spent with family and friends.

However, for some children, the holidays can be confusing and stressful.

Holidays are often the time of the year that we are reminded of changes that have occurred in our lives. Changes in the family structure - through divorce, loss of a loved one or separation from a parent on military duty - often result in changes in family traditions. For some children it is just the hustle and bustle that causes stress.

Children respond to stress in many ways. Crying, temper tantrums, clinging, excessive energy and regression to baby-like behaviors are some ways that children react to stress. Being aware of your child's stressors and teaching healthy ways to deal with stressful situations can help to eliminate some

negative behaviors and make the

holiday season less stressful for the entire family.

Below are some ideas for helping children deal with holiday stress.

• Continue with your meal and bedtime routines.

• Plan ahead for a hectic day by setting out clothing ahead of time and explaining the day's activities.

• Express appreciation for positive behavior with lots of hugs.

• If you will be visiting other households, discuss expectations ahead of time.

• Plan quiet time - read a story, listen to music or work on a project.

• If you are traveling, put together a travel kit for each child, including books, games, music and snacks.

• If possible, continue with family traditions even if a parent is absent - kids count on certain traditions.

• Show your child pictures of unfamiliar guests and talk about them before they meet.

• Take care of yourself, because children can sense adult stress.

• Consider humor - laugh and tell jokes.

• Ask your child how he or she is feeling about upcoming events - listen and respect their answers.

With a little advance planning, the holiday season does not have to be a time of stress. Take a deep breath and consider what you can do to eliminate family stress - and enjoy your time together.

Shirley Pate is a counselor at Joseph Gale Elementary School. She has been nominated as Oregon Counselor of the Year in public schools. You can e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..