Navigating The Stress of The Holidays: TIPS FROM A HOUSTON PLAY THERAPIST

The Holidays are just around the corner, which means a potential increase in stress, lack of sleep, excitement, exhaustion, etc.  

It’s Sometimes a Jungle out There 

Whether you’re a, “Christmas starts November 1st” kind of person or the, “I’ll definitely wait until after Thanksgiving” planner, the reality is that the holidays are just around the corner.  With that in mind,  you as a parent may be feeling a mix of emotions as the holidays approach: excitement, happiness, stress, anxiety, exhaustion, etc. The truth is, the holidays are not always the way Hallmark movies love to portray them, but what if you could have more control over? Wouldn’t it be great if we could take it all in, connect with our children and loved ones, and not lose our cool all at the same time? There’s no guarantee that these ideas will lead to that, but hopefully these suggestions will help in some way to take a step back and be present during this holiday season.  

So, the kids are home from school for two weeks, eek! This is amazing and stressful all at once because it may now give you the opportunity to connect more with your child/children, but it could also mean more time than you know what to do with.  I will be the first to admit that the Amazon and Target catalogs for Christmas have already made their way into my house and onto my desk. They are convenient and easy, just like most online shopping. You may want to hand that catalog to your child or open the app and tell them to just pick what they would want from Santa and leave it at that. Let’s take this opportunity to make the process of compiling a list for Santa a fun memory with our children and connect!  

A Houston play Therapist’s idea #3

  • Pick one or two stores of your choosing that will have an array of options for your children to pick out toys within “Santa’s” budget (i.e. Walmart or Target)  
  • Find one or two hours a few weeks before Christmas that you can dedicate to taking your children to that store  
  • Decide what type of camera you have and would want to use or if you would like to invest in one: Disposable (Here are some good options: Kodak, Fujifilm), Polaroid (Fujifilm polaroid camera), or a Handy dandy smartphone  
  • Tell your kids that they will be making their list for Santa this year with photos! Have them pose with each toy/item they are asking Santa for, and create reasonable limits such as quantity, price range, etc.  
  • Make it fun, and if you can find a different day or hour to take each child, that connection time can be that much more meaningful and less stressful for you as the parent to navigate.  
  • After the photos have been taken, have them developed at your local Walgreens or CVS 
  • Take them home with your kiddo and sit with them as they write their letter and add their photos into an envelope for Santa.

Again, I understand that there is a more efficient way to have your child make their list for Santa, but efficiency doesn’t always equal quality time and connection. 

To put it into perspective, I want you to try and think of some of your fondest holiday memories growing up. What did they entail? Perhaps it was a trip you took to your grandparent’s house, or the Barbie play house that Santa delivered, or maybe it was spending time with your parent after they returned from a long work trip. If or when you received gifts, did you feel fulfilled? What you asked for maybe didn’t always equal what you really wanted (perhaps quality time with your parents), which happens to children more often than we may see. Maybe a child will ask for a toy from the store, and receive the toy but yet still throw a tantrum. You may get frustrated and label your child ungrateful at that moment; however, it is important to always get curious about the why behind our child’s actions, even if they seem completely unwarranted in our eyes. To a child, a tantrum means something. In this case, it could be that they wanted the toy, but what they were most excited about, what they truly wanted was to enjoy that toy with mom and dad.  

Keyword: with. Connection is subjective, we all receive and desire it in different ways – correlated to love languages. Therefore, we must understand each other’s needs in order to devote the right time, energy, and effort that will foster genuine connection, especially during a time of year that can be both wonderful and chaotic.  

If the above idea isn’t realistic for your circumstances, first I want you to know that it is okay and it does not make you any less of a good parent. I have a second option that can provide a similar opportunity to connect but will require fewer steps.  

A Houston play Therapist’s idea #3

I came across a blog run by a team of women called Happy, Healthy, Impactful (HHI), which is a blog that is meant to help moms feel those three things (HHI) as a way to 1. Take care of themselves, but also 2—model for their children the best ways to navigate life. Last year, they posted a blog with a free printable kids Christmas wish list that I believe is a wonderful way to connect with your child, get to know them, and also challenge them to think more than just about the materials.  

A Houston play Therapist’s idea #3

Decorating cookies, but the busy mom way! Although baking cookies from scratch tastes and smells amazing, it’s not always possible with our busy schedules. But, we don’t have to cut this bonding opportunity out all together, we just have to adjust!  

  • Decide whether you want to bake from frozen or buy pre-made (Holiday Cookie Decorating Kit, or Frozen Sugar Cookie Holiday Cut, icing, sprinkles,etc)  
  • Find an hour to dedicate cookie decorating with your kiddos (weekday or weekend)  
  • Let your kiddos pick what holiday soundtrack to play in the background  
  • Allow them to have fun and get a little messy while decorating (remember it’s just a temporary mess!)  
  • Play a game. It can be a holiday theme, but I encourage you to make it about each other, almost like you are trying to get to know one another! (i.e. what’s your favorite Christmas movie, who’s your favorite reindeer, what’s your favorite Christmas song, etc) – this is a simple yet beautiful way to connect with our kiddos!  
Houston play therapist's tips on family connection.

Balance is Key

The holidays do not have to be so fast paced and anxiety provoking! If we slow down a bit and remember what this time of the year is really about, regardless of what you celebrate, meaningful and purposeful time with our children is everything.  

The above ideas are meant to provide some guidance on how to take the focus away from stress and chaos during the holidays and more towards fulfillment and happiness. As a parent, it is so important to remember what fills your cup so that you are making a conscious effort to do that in order to be more fully present for your children when they are needing you.  

Houston play therapist near me sharing holiday connection tips.

Think about self-care and what that means for you, and try to never lose sight of that. The more intune we are with ourselves, the more we are able to give to others emotionally – balance is more powerful than we know!  

About the Author 

My name is Laura Guerra, LPC and I am a Play Therapist at Brittani Persha Counseling in Houston, TX. I am trained across the lifespan and can work with an array of presenting concerns; however, I specialize in Play Therapy and enjoy working with individuals who are struggling with behavior concerns, anxiety, depression, and divorce. I believe wholeheartedly in the power of therapeutic play especially when it is paired with similar communication styles at home from parents, which is done through a holistic approach where I meet with parents on a regular basis to provide insight and recommendations. I received my master’s degree from one of the most renowned Play Therapy programs in the nation: The University of North Texas, and since then I have continued to learn and grow in my therapeutic abilities. Although Play Therapy is my specialty, my extensive training has allowed me to work with all ages. I am passionate about the work that I do, and I believe that most children and people, in general, can benefit from a therapeutic experience that suits their individual needs!  

More About The Houston Play Therapists at Brittani Persha Counseling

BPC offers individual counseling for an array of presenting concerns, so if you are seeking outside services for yourself or your child, please do not hesitate to reach out to our practice for more information on how we may be able to help. We offer a free 20 minute phone consultation in which a client specialist will speak to you one on one about your presenting concerns and match you with a therapist if our practice is the right fit. We look forward to hearing from you!  

interested in therapy services? here are some of the services offered at Brittani Persha Counseling in Houston, TX

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