For many, Christmas is a time for celebration, eating, drinking, and spending the festive period with loved ones. From a child’s perspective, nothing compares to the joy that comes from the season. The magic, fun, and presents all add to the experience. The nostalgia we feel as adults is all constructed from our formative years.
Children are not exempt from mental health problems. Depression, anxiety, and conduct disorders are all a direct response to what is happening in their lives. So, how can Christmas improve mental wellbeing in children?
With 1 in 10 children affected by mental health problems, here’s how the festive season can be a positive experience:
Christmas family dynamics
Society promotes the idea that Christmas should be a time of cheerfulness, joy, and happiness. When you are struggling with depression and anxiety, living up to the expectations of the season can make you feel even worse.
As a child, you are establishing your connections and relationships to your world. If that world becomes disordered, a child will automatically react to it. Family dynamics, facing the death of a loved one and a parent’s own mental health, can affect a child’s wellbeing.
The Priory group suggests that if children have someone they can talk to about their feelings from a young age, it will significantly improve their mental wellbeing.
Trust and feeling connected to a parent or caregiver will build confidence in children, allowing them to feel more comfortable in certain situations and environments. As the holidays are a season for reconnecting with your loved ones, it is a perfect time for building lasting connections for your child with their family members.
According to the Max Planck Institute in Germany, children as young as three years old have a sense of injustice. So the idea of Santa Claus rewarding those who are good with gifts feeds into the fundamental understanding of justice.
As a result, it also feeds into children’s mental wellbeing with what they feel they deserve – the art of gift-giving goes deeper than the curly bow. It reaches into our fundamental understanding of the world.
Although systematic lying has shaped the myths and legends of children for eons, the very idea of Santa Claus has power in the minds of children. A study conducted by Dr. Anderson and Dr. Prentice from the University of Texas interviewed a range of children and parents who no longer believed in Santa Claus.
Children who had unmasked the festive character were happy that they had discovered the truth. Interestingly, the sense of loss came from the parents as they felt their children had lost their childhood innocence.
A child’s mental wellbeing isn’t dependent on the societal norms that we have constructed around Christmas. It stems more from the universal idea of what Christmas means to the whole family.
Sleep and children’s mental wellbeing
Insufficient sleep can vastly impact a child’s mental wellbeing.
According to empirical evidence, if children are unable to consistently get the right amount of sleep, their ability (or inability) to manage emotion and behavior may result in minor to major mental health problems and psychiatric disorders.
When Christmas comes around each year, it can be very difficult for children to relax and get a good night’s sleep because they are buzzing with energy and excitement with the spirit of the holiday, festivities, and giving of presents.
While this feeling is unavoidable and shouldn’t be disallowed, you can still use this time to talk to your children about how they feel and about their sleep.
You can buy Christmas presents which can indirectly teach your child how important sleep is as well as what to do to get a good sleep.
Some present examples could include:
- A sleep journal
- Dream catcher
- Captivating books focused on sleep
- Thick light-blocking curtains
- Comfortable pair of pjays
Encouraging good sleeping habits in your child is essential to positive mental wellbeing.
A season of transformation
Media fuels a lot of our children’s base experiences, from the likes of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas to A Christmas Carol, the stories of our childhood shape how we view Christmas. It’s the idea that children, generosity, and transformation all go hand in hand. Culturally, Christmas is the season of giving and being generous, but why do we place these values on our children?
Studying the lives of 724 individuals spanning over 60 years, Harvard University has been at the forefront of studying the effects of childhood experience in their Study of Human Development. Addressing the participants’ life choices and experiences in the face of personal development, the study aims to discover what leads to maximum happiness.
Dr. Neil Jeyasingam suggests that as we grow older, we need to find “an identity by means of maintaining and disseminating wisdom.” In short, any activity that supports and develops the next generation is fundamental to our existence. Teaching, mentoring, grandparenting, and being involved in our children’s lives helps their mental wellbeing.
So, Christmas is the perfect time for developing children’s overall mental wellbeing. It’s a season for spending time with family and friends, giving, growth, and togetherness.
As Dr. Neil Jeyasingham puts it, Christmas “brings the best out of people and inspires us to be better than we are.” So let’s start with our children and give them the most positive experiences throughout their lives. It begins at home, with family.
Author bio: Alistair Knight is a writer for Brush Baby, a website dedicated to improving the lives of children and babies’ oral health across the world. In Alistair’s spare time, he enjoys spending time with the family, reading, and playing sports.
Photo by Tyler Delgado on Unsplash
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash
The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios only.
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