Submitted by Susan Moore
Around this time of year, we start hearing phrases like “Give thanks” and “get into the Christmas spirit” everywhere we go. Just about every advertisement reminds us that the holidays are right around the corner. It is a festive time of year with plenty to do. There are parades, Black Friday sales, family get-togethers, good food, and gifts to buy.
But as the joy and excitement of the season spreads, stress and anxiety also increase. During the holiday season, we actually see an increase in child abuse attributed to the additional stresses on families.
At first this sounds surprising, but everyone, especially parents, can relate to the stress of setting aside money to purchase gifts for Christmas and food for Thanksgiving. With extra expenses and additional events piling up, parents are vulnerable to losing control of themselves in an attempt to release their stress. Instead of finding a healthy outlet for stress release, many parents take out their frustration on their children and use abusive discipline.
“Typically around this time of year we see the parent with a full plate losing it a little bit and hurting their children,” says Kristen Rector of Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee. “It’s not the out-of-control raging parent who usually abuses a child but the parent stressed out by the holiday expenses.”
We know that many parents can relate to this.
According to Rector, “Every year during the holidays, our statewide parent helpline sees a spike in call volume.”
It is definitely easy to become stressed and lose self-control. For some, the holidays are a time for families to come together, which sets up a level of expectations. Parents give gifts and children receive them. Grandparents host Thanksgiving, and their kids and grandchildren receive their hospitality.
None of these things by themselves are bad; they are just responsibilities that can cause an increase in stress which lead to possible anger, fights, and abuse. Instead of separating family members by labeling them the “giver” or the “host,” each family member can participate in hosting and giving. Families can have each member prepare and bring a dish to Thanksgiving, or suggest a family gift exchange where adults and kids can give and receive gifts. This can create a sense of togetherness, spread the responsibilities among everyone, and reduce stress.
In Anderson County, Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee works with families of newborns enrolled in the Healthy Families Tennessee program and teaches them creative, healthy ways to release stress.
Here are some more helpful and creative tips for dealing with stress during the holidays:
- Learn to set priorities and limits. Every invitation doesn’t require a yes. Travel to see family is not a requirement. Don’t give in to guilt.
- Improve family dynamics with improved communication. Ask for input from all family members on what they feel is important.
- Teach kids that giving is more important than receiving.
- Set a budget and stick to it. Kids don’t have to get everything they want.
- Ask for help. If you feel overwhelmed, ask for help from family, friends, or neighbors. If you find yourself taking your stress out on your kids, seek help immediately. PCAT’s Tennessee Parent Helpline at (800) 356-6767 is a 24-hour resource for parents in any situation. Trained counselors can connect you to services and offer immediate support.
To learn more about Healthy Families TN and PCAT’s services for families in Anderson County, contact Program Manager Susan Moore at (865) 315-0596 or www.pcat.org.