While the holiday season brings joy and makes festive family time, it can also become stressful, as one in five parents experiences high holiday stress to the point of negatively affecting the children, according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.
The extra shopping and holiday tasks accounted for most of the stresses for parents (31 percent), followed by keeping family healthy amid the COVID-19 case uptick (30 percent) and balancing household finances (29 percent). Also causing stress were holiday preparations, including planning for family gatherings (23 percent), making special holiday meals (22 percent), and getting criticism from family members when negotiating holiday plans (14 percent).
“Excessive parental stress can add tension and diminish the joy children associate with the season,” Sarah Clark, co-director of Mott Poll and research scientist in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Michigan, told Neuroscience News.
One in five parents believes their stress level would have a negative impact on children’s holiday enjoyment.
The study also reveals that many more mothers are stressed than fathers, as 23 percent of mothers experience excessive stress, versus 12 percent of fathers.
Over 70 percent of parents said the most effective way to reduce holiday stress is to spend time alone. Others said that listening to music (55 percent), exercising (46 percent), and attending religious services (28 percent) also help.
Though fewer parents think getting help from other family members (23 percent) and working (15 percent) are helpful in reducing stress, the figures showed how moms and dads deal with stress differently. More mothers become less stressed when family members help whereas more fathers said work can lower their stress levels.
Among the parents with kids in school, many are more stressed when children are at home during school breaks. Nearly 40 percent feel relieved when children go back to school after the winter break, according to the study.
The report suggests that stressed parents be attentive when strategizing their holiday plans. For instance, parents should include children in the conversation when discussing holiday plans and learn about children’s expectations and favorite things to do. Parents could also assign different tasks to each family member.
Also, the poll experts said holiday stress and anxiety can create an opportunity for parents to demonstrate “good mental health hygiene” for their children by talking about their stress and finding ways to relieve it together.
An example from the report showed how parents could say things like “I’m really feeling overwhelmed with so many things on our [to-do list] for today. Let’s take a 5-minute dance break before we get back to checking things off our list.” The verbal expression and action-oriented approach can show children how to face and manage their stress.
This survey was administered in October to a group of randomly selected adults who were parents of at least one child under 18 living in their household, according to the report.