For many children, the holidays are the best time of the year. There are countless holiday parties, big extended family dinners, special religious ceremonies, parades, cookie exchanges, and so much more to look forward to. For other children, this flurry of activities sets off the alarm bells. Big crowds and unfamiliar faces can be incredibly uncomfortable and even scary, and they can zap the cheer right out of the holidays. That’s why it’s so important to understand how to help your kids deal with social anxiety during the holiday season, so they can enjoy (and not dread) this special time of year.

If you’re the parent of a child with social anxiety and you’ve never experienced anxiety yourself, it can be a confusing thing to navigate. As you head into the holiday season and start preparing for the festivities to come, it’s crucial to remember one thing: mental health is every bit as real and important to prioritize as physical health. Because children often can’t always verbalize their own anxiety, it can manifest itself in frustrating ways, like tantrums, crying, restlessness, and hyperactivity, according to However, it’s so important to remain patient and compassionate with your child. Just as you wouldn’t punish a child for having a sore throat or developing a cough, they shouldn’t be punished for their anxiety.

There are a few different ways to minimize the social anxiety and stress that holiday festivities can bring. First, consider your family’s schedule each day. While it may seem fun to plan a packed day of breakfast with friends, a trip to the zoo, lunch at your family’s favorite restaurant, and then a Christmas party at the neighbor’s, this go, go, go schedule can be overwhelming and confusing for a child with anxiety, Janet Spaulding, a licensed licensed marriage and family therapist told Make sure to make time for more relaxed, quiet activities in each day so your child has a chance to slow down and regroup, urges Spaulding. This doesn’t necessarily mean they need to sit alone in their room; instead, consider planning low-key, one-on-one activities at home, like baking cookies or watching a holiday movie.

–  n, Romper

Read more: How to Help Kids Deal with Social Anxiety During the Holiday Season

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