Helping Kids Manage the Stress of the Holidays
MADISON - The most magical time of the year may be the most stressful for kids: long-distance travel, irregular sleep patterns, and bad eating habits can take their toll on young children during the holidays.
Yet, Dr. Prasanna Raman, a pediatrician at UW Health Stoughton and an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, says parents can take control of the holiday craziness by doing their best to stick to the child's normal routine.
"Make sure kids, especially those younger than five years old, take their naps and eat their meals when they should," she says. "Parents can be somewhat flexible and not follow a strict schedule, but kids can get cranky if they don't get enough rest and aren't fed regular meals."
If the family plans to travel long distances for the holidays, Raman suggests parents take breaks every two or three hours; have plenty of food on hand in case the kids get hungry; and provide fun things to do during the drive.
"I think a DVD player in a car during a long trip is a savior," she says. "You can also play cards or board games. It can be a much nicer trip if the kids are occupied."
Along with the holidays comes the temptation of cookies, cakes, pies and other sugary treats that can destroy a child's normal diet. Raman says it's impossible to keep those foods away from kids, but parents should offer them in moderation.
"Limit the amount of sweets your children eat, and make sure they are not eating too many of them," she says.
Raman says parents can also keep their kids' diet in line by keeping sweets where they can't be seen or easily accessed.
"Put the sweets in a metal container and keep them where kids can't reach them," she says. "If they don't see them, they are less likely to eat them."
Raman says parents can also incorporate healthy eating into their children's diet by using a little imagination.
"Dress an apple up with peanut butter, and make it more fun," she says. "It's always harder to control outside influences when it comes to a child's eating habits during the holidays. But, kids will follow their parents' lead if the parents set a good example."
Date Published: 12/01/2010