Help for the Holidays



The holiday season is rapidly approaching and this year it appears that we will be experiencing a more typical holiday season than we did last year. Due to Covid, it may have been a while since we sat down with our large extended families and friends to celebrate the holidays together. Children who are shy or tend to be socially anxious may be experiencing anxiety in anticipation of these family gatherings. Here are some tips that you can implement to help your child feel more comfortable during the holidays.

  • Validate their feelings. Let them know that you understand why they are feeling nervous and that it is okay to feel that way after such a long time without large family gatherings. Reassure them that they can talk to you and that you are there to support them.

  • Let them choose a few family members who they are comfortable sitting next to and make a plan for them to sit next to them at the table.

  • Talk about who will be there ahead of time and what the expectations are for their level of communication with that person. Is it just a quick greeting or is a longer conversation expected?

  • Allow your child to take a break if needed and have a designated quiet space they can go to if they need to have some quiet time for a few minutes. Come up with a non-verbal signal they can give you to let you know that they need a break without announcing it to everyone who is present. A few examples might be a tug on their ear or a hand signal such as a thumbs up.

  • Model calm and communicative, socially appropriate behavior with your extended family and friends to give your child an idea of what the expectation is for interactions in large groups.

  • Plan a fun activity that they can focus on during the family gathering. One idea is to make a gratitude jar ahead of time. This will be fun for you and your child to do together. They can decorate a jar any way they would like with things like stickers, gems, or glitter. Give them a list of gratitude prompts and have them fill them in with their answers. Then you can cut their answers into strips and place them in the jar. Add a little battery powered tea light for some extra cuteness! Some examples are:

  • My favorite moment of the day is…

  • One of my favorite people is…

  • One thing that cheers me up when I am down is…

  • 5 things I am grateful for today…

  • Something I am grateful I am skilled at is…

  • My favorite hobby is…

  • At school, I am grateful for…

  • At home, I am grateful for…

  • One activity I am grateful to have is…

This is a great way to get their mind focused on positivity and to reduce anxiety before the family gathering even occurs. This also gives them a tool to use to talk to their relatives and friends. They can share how they responded and they can also ask family members what their answers would be. This activity allows everyone to express thankfulness and gratitude on a holiday that is meant to bring family and friends together in a loving way. Overall, letting your child know that you understand how they feel and that you are there to support them is the best way to ease them back into large family gatherings.


Happy Holidays!


By Nicole Wood


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