Post Holiday Angst and Anxiety
Some of the holidays are past and others will soon be over. I find that many people dread the holidays.
There are expectations heaped on about family, friends, good will, and a meal shared with loved ones together in a cozy atmosphere. The holidays don’t change things; the holidays amplify things.
If we are in a close family unit then holidays will magnify this and make the experience even better. Many people don’t live in that type of world.
Geography has separated us from family and friends. Families used to live together in the same village or town for generations. This did not guarantee that folks got along, but it did provide for a sense of belonging. If you have two dozen relatives in a town chances are you get along with at least some of them. If you only have one or two relatives the chance of conflict is greater. If you have no relative then you are at the mercy of the dreaded long-distance relationship. You can be cut off without any recourse.
Children and teens often talk about their holiday experiences in counseling.
Their commentary on the holidays is most interesting. They often express feeling embarrassed, not understood, confused, moody, and upset. After we talk for a while they may have a clearer idea about their concerns. For example, teenagers often experience anxiety and/or depression during the time they are out of school. Life goes from fast-paced to a snail crawl within a day or two. Here are some thoughts about the moods you may observe in your kids once they are home for the holidays.
Children spend the majority of their life in a school atmosphere. When not at school they experience a change in mood. Although most kids are happy to have the breaks, they are not always prepared for how to go from one dimension of involvement to another. They need empathy and assistance in making the transition from school to home and then from home back to the school environment.
Teens tell me that they feel bored. Parents often feel insulted, as they do try to provide a meaningful life for their children. The boredom is more about the change from busy to sedate. Children and teens can benefit from hearing that it is OK to be bored and without a particular pursuit in progress. It is OK to just be and not always do. In our fast-paced culture and world it is easy to forget how to be, how to just breath, and how to appreciate the sound of your own heart beating. The flurry of all things that need to be done distracts us from our natural biologic and animal rhythm.
Children often report there is considerable fighting or tension over the holidays. They keep the secrets about what goes on in the family and this is a huge burden to carry. They don’t want to dishonor their parents by talking about the mean things said or done. They are embarrassed to talk about it, because a part of them feels they must bear some responsibility in their parents choice of actions.
If your child or teen seems sullen make time to talk or go for a walk and just share silence together.
If you child is angry ask what might help right now. You could take a hike, go to the gym, do something that works the body. Or, play one of those video games you hate to see your kids play. Do it together and ask your child what it is about the game they most like. It isn’t the violence they like. It is not being caught and killed. This is partly due to the similarity to real life and how consequences to a child or teen feel like a death threat.
Continue to remember that children feel everything adults do, but they feel many things for the first time. The first times are always more intense. Have empathy, be emotionally available, and let these wonderful little guys and gals know how important they are to you.
Burton Mongelluzzo, N. (2011). Post Holiday Angst and Anxiety. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 10, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/angst-anxiety/2011/12/post-holiday-angst-and-anxiety/