Last week we looked at some ways adults can keep themselves healthy during the holidays, both mentally and physically.

Last week we looked at some ways adults can keep themselves healthy during the holidays, both mentally and physically.
If you have children, have you ever considered the emotional impact the holidays might have on them? We all have this cute image in our minds of kids and Santa and laughter and fun. What if your child doesn't fit in this category right now? Maybe circumstances have changed from previous years and your celebration won't be as lavish, or an important family member might be missing, or even something as simple as not being at home this year due to travel. Take a few minutes to check in with your child about how they are feeling and what they hope this holiday will bring for them, and I don't mean presents.
Here are some tips from the American Psychiatric Association's website, healthyminds.org, that you may want to take into consideration this year if your child seems less than thrilled about the upcoming festivities:

Discuss holiday plans well in advance, and include your children in the planning process.  Kids need some degree of control and predictability. Not knowing the plans, constant changing of plans or last minute decisions that affect them can all increase a child's stress. Make sure kids get plenty of rest. Staying up late for one night won't be a huge deal, but many nights in a row can lead to increased crankiness. Limit the amount of time a child spends alone watching TV or playing video games. Encourage interaction with family and friends, and plan special outings that include physical activity if at all possible. Kids can work off a lot of steam just by running around a snowy playground or backyard. Don't  promise things you can't produce. For example, don't promise a parent will be home in time for the holidays if the decision is really out of your control. Don't try and compensate for an absent family member with lots of gifts. What most kids want is your time and attention. Uphold and maintain family traditions even if a parent is absent. Kids count on certain traditions. They can have an important grounding effect by letting kids know that even though some things have changed, other things have remained the same. As the adult, take care of yourself. Try to avoid getting overloaded with obligations. If you feel stressed, your kids definitely feel it and it can increase their feelings of anxiety.

The majority of kids enjoy the holidays and all that they entail, even if things aren't just the way they would like them to be.
Your patience, honesty and willingness to listen to your child's needs and honor them can help prevent conflict, reduce stress, and make the holidays a happier time for the whole family.

Pam Maxson is a health educator at Noyes hospital in Dansville. If you have questions or suggestions for future articles, she can be reached at  pmaxson@noyes-hospital.org or 585-335-4327.