The build up to the holidays can be a big deal. No matter what holiday you celebrate – Christmas, Hanukkah, or another gift-giving occasion, there's no doubt that kids have their eyes on the prize. Or prizes.
Presents, that is, and usually lots of them. It's exciting for children of all ages to make a wish list or tell their relatives near and far what they really want to open on the important day (or days!). Parents can easily get caught up in this excitement, too.
The day arrives to open gifts, and – BAM – all that preparation, planning, and thoughtfulness, is gone in an instant. Kids will open their presents with glee, only to toss each aside and hurry to open the next one, hoping for something even better and bigger than they asked for. Sure, children get uber-excited on present opening day, and many are happy and grateful with what they receive.
Even if they're pleased with the toys and gifts they got, and the celebrations they attended, some children can experience a let down after the holidays are said and done. We all know this feeling – it's a feeling of emptiness. It's when you ask yourself the question, now what? Weeks, maybe even months, of anticipation is over – just like that.
This feeling can manifest as sadness, anxiety, or depression. Children, especially those who are young, may not even realize why they feel the way they do.
There are strategies to help your children overcome the feeling of the post-holiday let down. Communicating and sharing feelings can help them both understand and work through it.
During the holiday season, create moments for your children to learn about the world around them. Teach them that some people struggle, and not all children are as lucky as they are.
Put together a Thanksgiving meal for a needy family. Take a trip to the store to purchase a new toy and either drop it in a donation box or find an event where you can physically hand it over for another child to open. Participate in community events that act as fund raising for local children in need.
The idea is to place your child in a situation where it's abundantly clear that someone is less fortunate than they are. Teach them that while toys and gifts are awesome, not everyone gets everything – or anything – they want. Place less emphasis on their wish list, and more on the ways they can help other kids like them.
If your child got to open gifts from grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, cousin, neighbor, etc, have them take the time to sit and write out a nice thank you note for each individual. If they're too young to write, have them draw a picture or scribble on paper.
Shift the focus from sadness that it's all is over, to thankfulness for having people in their lives who love them. Take a trip to the post office together, get some stamps, and send out the colorful notes.
While the holidays and presents galore may have come to an end, a whole new year of possibilities is at our doorstep. The feeling that all is over after the holidays is real and, sometimes, envisioning the future can help ease that emptiness.
Sit with your child and go over the events of the year to come. Who has a birthday next? What parties or other holidays are coming up? Teach about New Year's resolutions. What do they want to achieve in the upcoming year? Opening the door to anything is possible can get your kids to stop feeling down and start focusing on their plans going forward.
Focus on what is important during the holidays and every other time of the year – your family. Play that brand new board game, talk a long walk, sit around and sip some hot cocoa, read a book together, complete a craft, and so much more. Create memories of enjoyable moments with the family.
Give your children a reason to love what happens once the holidays are over. You just may discover that they look forward to the small traditions that come after all the presents have been opened. Make these moments more on the quiet, relaxed side, and leave all electronic devices turned off!
While this one may not be as fun, many of us will agree that kids need routine. By getting them all set to head back to school after the holidays, it puts them in the right mindset for the rest of the school year and focuses their attention on something besides the holidays and presents. If your child's school does not send home work for the school break, consider making your own worksheets or playing educational games to get their mind back on the learning track.