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How to help children with anxiety handle a busy Christmas

Christmas… the most wonderful time of the year for some, whilst for others not all is festive and jolly. Christmas can actually be a rather anxiety provoking time, and can be particularly overwhelming for some children. With presents, dinners, decorations and music on top of a disturbed routine, it’s no wonder that children with anxiety may struggle to enjoy themselves.

It will never be easy, but with a few techniques and enough preparation, you can enjoy Christmas with your family and make it as relaxed as possible for your child.


Have a clear plan

It is important to keep your child in the loop with what will happen leading up to, on, and after Christmas day. Having a clear plan will help your child know what to expect  and communicate any worries they may have with you early on.

For example, if you are planning to go round to a family member’s house, answer questions such as, How many people will be there?, Will there be games to play? Or What time will we be arriving?.  The more detail you can provide, the more prepared and comfortable your child will feel.


Use Advent Calendars for encouragement

The change in routine can be tricky and it’s sometimes difficult to get your child up and excited when they know there’s a challenging day ahead.

Some parents use an Advent calendar as encouragement – they are great for channelling children’s excitement as they count down the days to Christmas. As well as providing opportunities for you to play together and spend some quality time during the festive season, getting your child involved in alternative Advent activities can help to develop their creative and social skills too. 

Lots of children (and adults!) enjoy celebrating Advent, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be limited to the traditional calendar containing sweet treats. With a little creativity, you can make some new traditions that involve the whole family and help children to get in the Christmas spirit through making, giving and taking part in activities each day.


Familiarity and Traditions

The lack of routine around the holidays can make some children feel particularly anxious, as they are unsure of what to expect and may not adapt well to change. Their normal school routine is disrupted as they are on their Christmas holidays, so simple rules such as waking up early and getting dressed in their uniform don’t apply. 

However, there are things we can do as parents to make sure our children have a sense of familiarity around Christmas. For example, having annual traditions that are upheld, such as decorating the Christmas tree, opening a present on Christmas Eve, or making gingerbread houses. 

Not only does this allow you to spend quality time with each other as a family, but it reinforces the idea that although some things may change around Christmas, they aren’t bad changes… they’re actually quite fun!


And breathe…

Remember, your child learns best from watching you, so keeping yourself relaxed and calm is one of the best things you can do to help them cope with unexpected events and routines during the festive season and the feelings of anxiety these may bring.

Doing your best to plan, communicate and get involved in the festive activities as a family can help everyone feel a little calmer this Christmas.