Christine Gregory, one of CareSouth’s Senior Clinicians, leads the Illawarra clinical services team including a speech pathologist, occupational therapist, and psychologist. Having worked as a psychologist for more than 15 years, Christine has a wealth of experience and is committed to supporting our children, young people and carers.

Christine has shared some insights on managing the stress of the festive season to help make it a joyful time for families.

Christmas is a busy time of year right? I’m surprised you’ve even found the time to read this article! Perhaps it’s grabbed your attention because the kids’ behaviour seems a little more out of control than usual? Or maybe you’re aware it’s a sensitive time and you want to help make it as joyful as possible? Whatever the reason, I think we can all agree Christmas brings with it a lot of change to the ordinary. Ideally, this is a positive change, but for kids in care the sounds of Christmas carols can bring up all sorts of memories of sadness, shame, hunger, disappointment and fear. As we all know, these emotions in kids get expressed in less than helpful ways. To top it off we have extra on our to-do lists, more on our minds and far less patience (or maybe that’s just me?!).

So how do we help our kids through this without jumping to the conclusion that they’re ungrateful for everything we are doing for them this Christmas?

Here’s 5 quick tips for keeping things calm over the Christmas period:

  1. Firstly, explain to kids what is happening. Have a calendar in clear view with all the extra activities and plans. Draw pictures if reading is an issue. This helps kids to mentally prepare for the changes.
  2. Try and maintain as many ordinary routines as possible. Having structure and predictability helps to create calm.
  3. Talk about birth families, previous carers or any other significant relationships openly and without judgement if they want to. Avoiding conversations because it might be upsetting is avoiding a large part of the child’s life. Christmas makes us think of family, this is no different for kids in care.
  4. Notice our own anxieties around Christmas. Understanding our own feelings and talking about it in a calm way will help to normalise Christmas restlessness eg. ‘I’m sorry if I’m rushing you, I just feel a bit worried that Grandma will be cranky if we’re late and I really don’t like to disappoint Grandma’. Kids in care are highly sensitive to emotional changes in us, even if we think we’re not showing it.
  5. Ensure there’s room for downtime every day. This applies to all of us. It may be at home between activities, or it might be finding a quiet space out at an event. Christmas time can be a sensory overload so taking some time out to calm is really important.

Christmas can be a stressful time for us all. It can also be a wonderful time for fun and connection.

If Christmas is bringing about challenges in your child we understand the complexity and difficulties around this time which is why CareSouth’s After Hours Service will be on call 24/7 right throughout the holiday period to provide support to children, young people, families and staff.