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The winter holiday season is a time of warmth, joy, and cherished family moments. However, just like adults, kids can experience stress during the holidays. Changes in routines, heightened expectations, unfamiliar faces and sensory overload from bright lights, loud sounds, new foods, and crowds can contribute to anxiety and meltdowns. Children might struggle to articulate their feelings, leading to tears from overwhelmed kids and parents. Remember that each family is unique; by understanding your child’s needs and preferences, you can tailor your holiday expectations to ensure their comfort and enjoyment while making magical, mindful memories.

Sensory Support

The winter holidays can be sensory-rich with decorations, parties, and bustling activities. Some children, especially those with sensory sensitivities or neurodivergence, might struggle with sensory overload. If you notice your child struggling, you can help by offering noise-canceling headphones, a favorite blanket or stuffy, a snack or water, or helping them find a private, quiet place. Giving kids a safe space and being empathetic will help everybody enjoy the holiday.

Family Member Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness can be transformative during the holidays. Being present in the moment fosters connection and reduces stress, so remember to set down your phone and turn off the TV. Engage in activities that encourage togetherness and observation, like taking nature walks, doing gentle yoga or going for a bike ride, or playing a board or card game. Taking breaks to simply rest together, talk about your days, and express gratitude is just as important as packing in the fun activities.

Making it Meaningful

Sometimes it seems like the main messaging of the holiday season is all about consumption. Flip the focus by engaging in activities that encourage compassion and thanks, like creating crafts for loved ones, writing letters of appreciation, or volunteering together. These experiences shift the focus from materialism to meaningful connections and experiences.

The winter holidays can be a time of wonder and joy, especially when approached mindfully. Be flexible with your plans and embrace the unpredictable. By centering children’s mental health, sensory needs, and incorporating mindfulness, families can all enjoy this special season together.