By Aimee Zeitz Regional Director of Quality Family Engagement
Christine Cole, Early Childhood Mental Health Clinical Supervisor
YMCA Childcare Resource Service

Research shows the power and impact of positive relationships, protective and promotive factors can serve as incredible buffers against childhood adversity. Holidays can be a time of joy, slowing down, and more quality time with loved ones.  It can also activate past trauma, adversity, and grief. Here are ways to use protective factors as we navigate the stress of the holiday season.

Slow down

Protective Factor Used: Caregiver Resilience

Be attuned to how you and your family are experiencing the holidays, communicate about what you may need, and set boundaries as necessary to maintain your own and your family’s well-being.

 

Keep routines

Protective Factor Used: Knowledge of Child Development

In the excitement of holidays, we often adjust our schedules for parties and get-togethers. We can also lose sight of our typical routines and become lax around things that create structure for our days. Though we do this to enjoy the time off, it can actually create more stress. For our kids, the unpredictability and changes in sleep/ eating schedules can lead to increased behaviors. We need our regular routines to help us feel safe and comfortable.

 

Low sensory activities

Protective Factor Used: Knowledge of Child Development

During the holidays, we add fun decorations, play music and often get together with larger crowds. This can be overstimulating for our brains and bodies. We don’t have to ditch decorations and fun, but it’s important to intentionally plan down time for low sensory activities to let our brain and body regulate.

 

Creating traditions as a family

Protective Factor Used: Social Connections

Traditions are what we make them. At times, we have had past negative experiences with ‘typical’ traditions. It can be hard to know which activities are triggering and stressful versus which are exciting. Rather than ditching all the typical traditions and starting fresh, come together as a family (given and chosen) to think of things you enjoy. This may come up with entirely new traditions or just tweaking the old ones to be a better fit for your family. Consider socially distant activities such as checking out holiday lights/ decorations, holiday movie nights, acts of service to others (note of appreciation to neighbors or notes of inspiration on cars in a parking lot), making new recipes together, holiday hikes, etc.

 

Virtual Gatherings

Protective Factor Used: Social Connections

Maybe you aren’t traveling this year, but you can still connect with loved ones. Consider organizing zoom celebrations and virtual holiday parties.

 

To learn more about Protective Factors, read STRENGTHENING FAMILIES: A GUIDE TO PROTECTIVE FACTORS.

 

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