Examining the Effects of Holiday Stress on Children

screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-3-59-42-pmStaff Report

‘Tis the season to be jolly, busy and stressed. It’s no secret the holidays are a time of year when everyone has a lot on their plates—adults and children alike. But should you be worried about the effects of holiday stress on your health or the health of your children? According to Bayhealth Pediatrician Mamoon Mahmoud, MD, FAAP, dealing with some anxiety and stress at this time of year is perfectly normal and acceptable.

“It’s important to recognize that there is such a thing as normal, healthy anxiety,” said Dr. Mahmoud. “Our bodies, including children’s, are capable of handling exposure to some amount of stress and anxiety.”

When it comes to the holiday season, even kids will get anxious, said Dr. Mahmoud. “If the anxiety continues, or it seems your child isn’t coping, that’s when you should be concerned and seek professional help. In other words, as long as the anxiety and stress aren’t interfering with your child’s daily activities, social interactions, etc., it is okay and normal.”

There are also things parents can do to help their children—and themselves—better cope with holiday stress and anxiety.

“Most of the anxiety children experience and will display is a response to their parents’ anxiety,” explained Dr. Mahmoud. “Oftentimes, the children will mirror their parents’ reactions and behaviors. So it’s important for parents to address and manage their own stress and anxiety. To help ensure kids don’t see their parents anxious all the time—during the holidays, or whenever they are experiencing a lot of stress—parents should reach out to others, such family members, to see if they can take the child(ren) to some of their activities, etc.”

Parents basically need to give themselves a break from running around and the children need a break from exposure to higher levels of stress and anxiety. “If parents don’t have family members or others available to help them and it’s not possible to establish a support network, they may want to consider going to a counselor to get tips on how to manage their own stress as well as to help their children cope with stress and anxiety,” said Dr. Mahmoud.

To find a Bayhealth physician families can call 1-866-Bay-Docs to learn about providers in your area.

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