As we enter the holiday season, we often get reports from parents that their children are showing an increase in behaviors, have new behaviors, or old behaviors have resurfaced. For many, this time of year is joyous, full of fun activities, and family gatherings. For others, this time of year is a trigger for past trauma, pain over the loss or disconnection of family, or is altogether overwhelming. As adults, we may be able to name these stressors and communicate them with others. For our children, however, words can often fall short when managing their emotions and rather than share how they are feeling, they display those feelings to others through their behaviors. As parents, it can be difficult seeing our children struggle during this happy season. However, if we can name what our child is experiencing, we may be able to provide them comfort and connection as they process the holidays.
Below are some signs your child may be struggling during the holiday season.
Signs your child is triggered:
- Wants to ruin the holidays for others
- Needs more control
- Is being aggressive or mean to other children in the home or their peers
- Is demanding over family activities or demands certain gifts
- Appears shut down or depressed
Signs your child is grieving or longing for those who are gone:
- Discloses past trauma and family members they currently do not see
- Shows no interest in activities or avoids things they usually enjoy
- Doesn’t have an appetite
- Seems more emotional and cries easily
- Doesn’t want to have fun or shares they can’t be happy
Signs your child is overwhelmed:
- Struggles with all the holiday decorations and bright lights
- Fears inflatables, Santa, moving decorations
- Intolerant to holiday food, is gagging, throwing food on the floor
- Christmas music is too loud or hurts their ears
- Family gatherings consist of too many people so they hide or act out
If your child is displaying any of the above symptoms, they could be struggling during this holiday season. Parents who can adjust family outings, not make the house too busy with decorations, are able to provide their child with different food options, or a quiet place to sit when overwhelmed can greatly assist their child in navigating this season. But the most important “gift” for your children is grace this Christmas. By showing empathy to our children and lowering our expectations of them, we are providing them (and us) a higher chance of accepting and being content overall with the holiday season.
Blessing to you and your family,
Haley Morte, LAC