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Skip the Thanksgiving food fight
Avoid holiday stress

Somewhere between the first course of the Thanksgiving dinner and the pumpkin pie, the food fight begins. Holidays are often a time of family togetherness but they can also be a source of stress and conflict. The potential for drama has increased over the past two years during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s really nothing new.

Young children can also feel stress at holiday gatherings, said Krystal Woodral, Family Support Worker at Jefferson Elementary School in Great Bend. They may not be used to being around a lot of people, or they may have experienced something traumatic, such as the loss of a grandparent who is absent from the gathering for the first time.

At school, students are monitored for social-emotional wellness, with checks on how they handle anger, peer relationships and anxiety. Heading into the holidays, educators focus on scenarios that the children may come up against and they ask, “How would you feel in this situation and what would you do?”

Adults can use the same techniques to help their children deal with holiday stress and they can also use these techniques themselves, Woodral said. Think about the time you will be spending with family and scenarios from previous years that have led to anxiety or escalated to an argument.

Make a list before the holiday of ways your family triggers negative feelings. Plan to avoid these irritations. 

Tips for holiday stress

Here are five things you can do this week and throughout holiday gatherings to ease family tension:

• Reduce travel stress - Pack healthy snacks (nuts, fruits, and cut-up vegetables are great choices) to curb stress eating. Leave yourself more time than you think you’ll need to get to your destination. 

• Stick to family rules - Your kids need structure but holiday visits will put them off their routine. If there are thinks that make you uncomfortable - such as an in-law who wants to spank you child or over-indulge them, you have the right to remain firm in your rules. But ...

• Pick your battles - Let others do things their way and be themselves. Family members should show respect for one another. Hold firm when it comes to health, safety and basic family values, but be flexible on some things. Refuse to engage in arguments over politics or anything that is likely to lead to a family blowup.

• Deflect argumentative or judgmental comments. Be ready to say, “I’d rather not talk about that but let’s set the table.”

• Recognize the value in all your relationships. Cherish the moment.