How to Help Anxious Children Cope with the Holiday Season


santa anxietyThe holidays are a time for cheer – or not, depending on how your anxious child reacts to the hustling, bustling season. And it’s no wonder why many of them react with crying, irritability, nervous behaviors, headaches, stomach aches and the desire to isolate.

Routine is extremely important for anxious children, and the holiday season typically throws a huge monkey wrench into the normal schedule of activities. Anxious children are also highly sensitive, and they can easily pick up on their parents’ stress and anxiety during the December stretch.

Add a big, loud, bearded stranger in a red suit into the mix, and your holidays may be more scary than jolly.

Tips to Decrease Anxiety

Eat right. Make sure your anxious child has a nutritious meal before heading out to a holiday fete. Kids have a sneaky way of piling their plates full of cookies, candies and snacks, a combination that can lead to hyperactivity and stomach aches.

Retain as much of your routine as possible. Having the same homework time, same bedtime and same waking time can go a long way toward maintaining the feeling of security anxious children get from a regular routine. Adequate sleep is another big must, as tired children are often cranky, irritated children.

Schedule some downtime. Balance out the parties and activities with quiet evenings at home. Your anxious children will appreciate the slower pace and familiar surroundings.

Indulge in daily relaxation techniques. Spending a few minutes sitting quietly, reading a favorite story, listening to soothing music, or engaging in deep breathing techniques can be an ideal way to add a dose of calm to any day – for both you and your anxious child.

And Now about Santa

Adults already have the experience and background to view Santa Claus as a pal. But to a child with no past experience of the jolly man in red, the guy can be a very scary stranger. Fear of Santa is a normal reaction for kids aged anywhere from 2 to 7, although children as young as 6 months can already have an inkling that Santa is a stranger and strangers are to be feared.

Other children may be wary of Santa because they fear beards, red suits, his gloves or his boisterous “Ho, ho, ho.” His ability to know everything, including if your child has been bad or good, can also make some children nervous.

Tips for Trusting Santa Claus

Take it slow. Instead of running up to the line that plops your child on Santa’s lap, try visiting Santa from a distance a few times just to say hello. With enough exposure and repetition, your child may move closer to the jolly guy with each visit, eventually being comfortable enough to sit on his lap.

Show he’s a pal. Talking to Santa one-on-one can help alleviate your children’s fears. You can also tell Santa a bit about your child, like his favorite activities or pet, so Santa has something comforting to share.

Never force it. If your anxious child simply will not or cannot sit on Santa’s lap, it’s probably best just to let it go. Forcing your child into an uncomfortable situation only serves to make things worse.

Your children may eventually warm up to Santa, or they may not. Either way, the bigger issue is helping your anxious children feel as safe and secure during the holidays as you help them feel throughout the rest of the year.


Photo Credit: FH Alexander via Compfight cc