Every year we look forward with great (•cough, unrealistic•) expectations to December, with its whirlwind of gifting, partygoing, carb-loading and seemingly endless parade of family festivities. While the holiday season is engineered to maximize feelings of joy and good cheer, all that hurrying and scurrying about can generate plenty of stress. Sometimes it seems like joy is a four-letter word.
But the good thing about holiday stress, unlike other types of negative stress in our lives, is that it’s predictable: We know when it will begin to ratchet up, when it will peak and when it will subside, and if we’re thoughtful about it, we can employ various strategies to reduce if not totally avoid the seasonal stress we experience. Our feature, Helping Our Stressed-Out Kids Cope, lays out a game plan for managing meltdowns in our children, but also provides key advice for coping with your own stress as a parent when navigating those hot-button moments with your teen ... or those long register lines. As you get swept along by the festive chaos of the holiday season, remember Dr. Laura Kastner’s simple but sage wisdom: “The play circuits of the brain compete with the worry network, so choose to play more! Strengthen the circuits for positive emotions. Seek joyous moments.” It’s a sentiment too long to embroider on a pillow, but one we’d all do well to remember this time of year.
If the good doctor says that the play’s the thing, then what better way to stimulate positive, joyous emotions than by treating your family to an actual play? Our annual holiday arts guide (Let It Show!) is jam-packed with steals and splurges, from the various and sundry Nutcrackers, Christmas Carols and Nights Before Christmas, to comic romps, holiday music and other shows and events as unique as your family.
If one of your sanity-saving strategies for the holidays is reducing the stress of shopping and spending too much on presents, have we got the gift guide for you (Small Is the New Big): These genius little gifts will spread big joy, and for less than $25 each.
Also in our December issue, we turn our attention to the topic of cultivating global-mindedness in our children (Citizens of the World). The values and mindset that characterize global citizenship are evolved through developing such skills as critical thinking, communication and collaboration — the very skills our kids need for a happy and successful life. When our children are encouraged to develop a sense of their own cultural identity while also learning to recognize and truly appreciate the diversity in world perspectives, they are far likelier to take action and to advocate for others. How to Raise a Changemaker explores local organizations and programs that are teaching youth advocacy skills, and in this month’s It Starts With You(th) column, you’ll meet a local teen who is motivated to advocate for social change through the power of dance and kindness.
On behalf of the ParentMap staff, happy holidays to you and yours!