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  • Denisha J. Hamilton, LCSW

The Holidays are Approaching and Everyone is Happy…Except for Me

Daylight savings time has arrived, which for me signifies that the holidays are a’coming! The leaves are starting to change color. The temperature has greatly dropped. And those Christmas blow up yard decorations are up and inflated in your neighbors’ yard! For some children, this is an exciting time of year, filled with seeing relatives and keeping up with traditions that we may have had to put on hold last year.

However, for other children, this season doesn’t bring those warm fuzzies that everyone else seems to be experiencing. They may experience stress, increased anxiety, or depression. They may have family members that they don’t feel like their best selves when around them. Or maybe they have social anxiety, so these big family gatherings aren’t fun for them. And that’s ok.

Here are some tips that I recommend for the holidays if you find your child in the category of those who will be interacting with people they’d rather not interact with:

  • Set realistic expectations for your child

  • Come up with an exit plan if necessary

  • Trust your child’s boundaries

A common people flaw is setting expectations for ourselves that are likely not to be met. For example, if your child is typically quiet or reserved in social gatherings, expecting them to talk to everyone is not realistic. Instead, be honest about the discomfort this may cause your child and talk to them about how they’d like to handle when (not if) they get overwhelmed. Maybe there’s a room they can sit in by themselves for a few minutes. Or a smaller group of people they can interact with rather than being in the large group. The power is in knowing that they can control how they respond when over-stimulated, as well as knowing that your job as parent is just to advocate for what your child needs.

It’s ok to leave an event early. If we know that your child has a time span of about 3 hours before their behavior starts to change or your own anxiety starts to increase waiting for that change, it’s ok to leave. Know your limits and when the event will go from tolerable to not so tolerable for you. Maybe there’s an action your child displays that dictates that it’s time to go. Trust your gut…leave when your child’s body language says it’s time.

Boundary setting is also very important. If your child doesn’t want to hug someone or doesn’t want to be alone with someone, they don’t have to. It is important to remember that our bodies should be respected regardless of the family connection or environment we are in. It is also important to teach our children that all people need to respect our boundaries. Sometimes we feel that we have to justify our “why” when we say we don’t want to hug or be left alone with someone. You don’t. If “oh his hugs are just long” doesn’t work for you, then this year let’s start a new tradition of no hugs.

Regardless of how you are spending the holidays, please remember that your children’s experiences are valid and don’t have to be justified to anyone. Please listen to their concerns and take care of yourself and them, in whatever way that means. Happy Holidays to you all 🍁.


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