Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Overcoming Holiday Anxiety in Children

            It's holiday time and you may be noticing that your children are becoming increasingly anxious.  The holidays can be just as confusing for children as they are for adults.

            As a parent, you must first evaluate where you are emotionally at this time of the year.  Many parents feel overwhelmed by the multiple commitments that they have made.  Certainly, all of this preoccupation with shopping, cooking and planning for the holidays, may leave less time for your children.  Ironically, this can create more frustration during a time that is supposed to be joyous.

            The good news is that there are a number of things that parents can do to prepare themselves and their children in advance.  For one, you can involve your child in the process of planning for the holidays.  Ask your child what they like and do not like about the family’s usual method of celebration.  Take the time to really listen and validate their feelings.  Allow your child to participate in some of the holiday planning.  In addition to taking in some of you’re their suggestions, you can also begin to teach your child how important it is to compromise. 

            Many children get easily over-stimulated during holiday time.  It is extremely important to create as much structure as possible, even in the midst of a chaotic schedule.  Children may benefit from knowing the schedule ahead of time.  Whether you are going shopping with your child, to a family gathering or on a day trip, try to keep as much consistency as possible.

            Shopping trips, for example, can be made easier, with a few simple preparations.  To begin with, shopping trips should be time-limited.  It is difficult for many children to shop for more than one hour without a break.  Perhaps, you can treat the child to ice cream, as a reward, in between shopping trips.  Make sure that you set the rules and expectations prior to the shopping trip.  Token rewards can come a long way.  Parents should plan what they need to buy, as much as possible, ahead of time.  In setting clear behavioral expectations for your child, prior to the shopping trip, it is also important to set consequences beforehand. 

            Although schedules may be busy, parents should not underestimate the importance of kids getting adequate sleep.  Sleep is essential for both physical health and for mental health.  If you do notice that your child appears more irritable, consider the possibility that he or she has not been getting enough sleep.   You can start by trying to keep very similar bedtime hours as you do during non-holiday times.  A child will benefit from some quiet time during the day and especially at night, right before bed.  Perhaps, having the child take a bath, read a book or listen to some quiet music can be soothing.  If you feel that your child is overwhelmed from all of the day’s activities, you can also try to soothe your child by having a conversation with him or her.  Acknowledge all of the things that he or she did during the day that were positive.  Allow children to express their feelings without being judgmental.
       In addition to creating as much structure as possible, it is also helpful to practice some of the communication and social skills that are at the forefront of holiday time.  Children, who struggle socially, may find the idea of having to greet and talk to multiple people, during holiday time, to be overwhelming.  Parents can practice these skills with their children by using puppets or role-playing.  Make this fun and think of it as a wonderful bonding opportunity. 
        Some of the specific social skills to practice would be how to greet others, how to make simple conversation and how to ask for space, when they need it. You may want to address other possible social scenarios.  For example, if your child does not like a certain food, but is asked to eat it, how can they give an appropriate response.  These skills will empower your child and ease some of the anxiety.             

      Remember that being around a lot of people, especially seeing new faces, is not easy for many children, as it is not easy for many adults.  Once you have practiced these skills, make sure to ask your child which of the strategies they used, at the end of the day.  Always provide the child with positive reinforcement for the small steps that he or she took. Continue to practice these skills, so that the child can begin to internalize them.
Natasha Edelhaus
is a Marriage and Family Therapist in Stoughton, MA.  In addition to seeing children, families and adults, Ms. Edelhaus also runs Social Skills Groups for children and Parenting Groups. She can be reached at (781) 708-4504

Friday, November 2, 2012

Cooking with Kids

Cooking with Kids

Our program Cooking with Kids brings parents and kids together and helps them to experience creating healthy food as a family. They will learn about the health connection of food and nutrition by making easy and good-for-you snacks. Through hands-on activities, demonstrations, cooking and education, children and families learn basic cooking skills and food preparation techniques during our many events!

We are lucky enough to have Liz Weiss, author and registered dietician, lead our event ‘Meal Makeovers for Busy Families’ on November 6. She will be sharing her secret pantry “switches” that every parent should know, and will turn any picky eater into a health nut.

Learn from chef Claudia Denelle at our event 'Thats Tasty: A Tale of Two Cakes' as she shows us simple substitutions for the yummy foods we love so you can still eat what you want and not feel guilty on December 12. She will trick your taste buds and have you try two versions of the same ice-box cake to see if you can tell the difference between the regular cake and the healthier cake.

Make your own pasta at ‘Kid’s Cooking Green Pasta Making 101’ on January 30 with the hands-on educational outreach program of the Lexington Farmer’s Market Kid’s Cooking Green. Learn the benefits of cooking with locally grown food.

Keep a look out for more Fall Programs to come! Click here for more info!

Our Cooking with Kids program is generously sponsored by Hannaford Supermarkets. Hannaford and The Children’s Museum hold the same core values when it comes to the health of the community, and teaching kids that eating healthy can be fun. Through their support we are able to share with you these fun and yummy programs.

"At Hannaford, we believe in building healthy communities and reaching out to children to help them to embrace healthy choices now so they will continue to make them in the future. We are happy to team up with The Children's Museum in Easton and to help them achieve their goals of bringing healthy eating to local families." -Molly Tarleton