The holidays are traditionally a time for families and friends to come together for quality time and celebration, however it can be a time of family discord and challenge for parents caring for a child struggling with a behavioral or emotional disorder. A sudden angry outburst, mood swings, unexpected aggression toward another, or defiance can turn what should be a time of peace and joy into a time of stress and discomfort. The good news is there are positive measures parents and caregivers can take to minimize the chances for conflict and set the stage for happy holidays.

  1. Consider your child’s underlying emotional and social needs when making plans. You may be pulled in many directions, but make time to spend with your child. Be in tune with their emotional state and what they need.
  2. Identify potential triggers of stress, anxiety, or anger and prepare an action plan with the child for dealing with situations that may arise. The root of your child’s anxiety or conflict may be another person, being in a certain space, or participating in a particular activity. If a certain visiting family member is a trigger, plan opportunities for your child to participate in activities separate from that person, use place cards at the dining table to seat them apart from one another, or do not include that person in your plans. If larger crowds trigger anxiety, arrange in advance a quiet area as an escape.
  3. Review with your child the coping skills they have worked on to help calm themselves and maintain self-control. Talk with them about recognizing feelings before they boil over into behaviors. Plan a signal your child can use to let you know that anxiety or emotions are starting to rise.
  4. Discuss with your family goals and expectations for the holidays and when attending or hosting special events.
  5. Avoid power struggles with your child. Focus on working together to find a solution, rather than prevailing in a disagreement. A solution that evolves from compromise will make the child feel as they have gained something and will limit additional conflict.
  6. Plan distractions. Have activities prepared to distract your child when stress levels rise and to draw their focus to something else.
  7. Plan escape routes. Be ready to remove your child or the trigger source from a stressful situation or environment.

Our mission at Red River Youth Academy focuses on hope, second chances, and new beginnings. We wish you and your loved ones a happy, healthy, and peaceful holiday season.


The content of this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to substitute for professional mental health advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed mental health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a mental health condition.