As the holiday season approaches, many people are making plans to spend time with friends and family. Maybe a trip is in the works, or perhaps your family will be hosting out-of-town visitors. The bustle and excitement of the season is something to look forward to. But sometimes, this time of year coincides with changes for your family or friends that aren’t so happy.
Do you know someone who is going through a rough patch? The season can fill people with joy and gratitude, but it can also bring sadness. Talking about complex emotions can help your child navigate their own sadness or help them understand why a friend, neighbor, or family member might be sad even in the middle of happy occasions.
Together, you and your child can talk about the different emotions people feel. It can help to understand that the lump in their throat or the ache in their tummy is caused by an emotion they are feeling, and emotions may be the result of something that happened. There are several ways to help children cope when they are upset. Here are just a few:
• Practice breathing techniques
• Calm them with music
• Pretend to fill a bowl of happiness. What does your child put in that bowl?
• Take a walk
• Have your child tell someone why they’re sad
• Cry it out
• Create a calming mantra (e.g. “It’s okay, I can manage”)
• Ask for a hug
Books can help kids cope, too. Here are some of our recommendations:
This time of year is filled with opportunities to think about others. Yasmin the Superhero is a story about a young girl who wants to defeat villains in her neighborhood. What she discovers are neighbors who need help. Who in your neighborhood or community might be experiencing hardship? They could be lonely and would appreciate a visit or need assistance with a light errand or simple task. Showing your child how to be kind will make them feel good and may also make a difference for someone who is struggling. Be the superhero in your neighborhood.
It is also important to teach children to express gratitude for family, friends, and community all year long. The Cherokee people learn to express appreciation for all the little things, in good times and in sadness, by saying “Otsaliheliga,” which means “We Are Grateful.” When you are a good neighbor, perhaps someone will be saying “Otsaliheliga” about you. And maybe, after a big dinner with family, you will want to take your own “thank you walk” around the neighborhood.