The holiday season is upon us – gift opening, holiday cheer, and of course, tons of special treats and desserts. If you notice your child acting out or more anxious than usual, it may be because of increased sugar in their diet – or a “sugar rush.”
Kids can get a lot of sugar during the holiday season and, chances are, with this sugar intake comes new energy levels and some unwanted behaviors or even feelings of anxiety.
So in order to prepare, this article will give you 7 helpful tips for navigating the holiday aka “sugar rush” season with your kids.
1. Pump the fluids
Drinking, especially water, is important for kids to stay hydrated. Staying hydrated can help your child’s digestion and balance their electrolyte levels so they aren’t fatigued as easily.
So try serving holiday snacks with water instead of juice or soda! This way kids can still enjoy their holiday snacks without the addition of a sugar rush.
2. Plan healthy snacks like nuts, yogurt, or cheese sticks instead of sugary foods
Balance your child’s sugar intake with healthy snacks and drinks throughout this season. Sugar crashes can happen when a child’s blood sugar levels drop drastically after the body has processed too much sugar.
This often causes irritability and increased anxiety in kids as they come down from the “high” that comes with eating lots of holiday treats. A way to avoid this is by planning healthy snacks and treats like nuts, yogurt, or cheese sticks. These foods will give your child the energy they need and can help tame overly hyper or anxious behaviors during or after holiday parties or events.
3. Get outside
Physical activity can help children relieve holiday anxiety by releasing endorphins that boost moods, much like exercise does for adults! Physical exercise will give kids (and parents alike) an outlet other than holiday treats to release their energy.
Encourage your kids to get outside and play or go for a walk. Other ideas could be to go on nature walks, holiday scavenger hunts or Christmas light viewings together as a family.
Getting outside is a great way to get active and release energy. (And instead of serving hot cocoa for a warm treat after being outside, try something new like warm tea and crackers!)
Kids often enjoy holiday themed movies, TV specials, and shows while they are home from school during break. But sitting in front of a screen can create a disconnect between the body functions and brain and cause bottled up energy and unwanted behaviors after the screen time.
Try calendaring your days to provide structure and predictability. This should include screen time allocation and will help you help your kids create healthy habits.
Pro tip: When a show, movie or game is ending and it is time to turn off the screen, try providing a healthy snack when transitioning from the screen to your next task to bring your kids back to brain body connection.
5. Pick a vegetable for the day
Involving your child in food prep can help a child struggling to eat healthier options make better choices. Try having each child home for the holiday season pick one vegetable for the day and get everyone to try it.
This can create opportunities to talk and plan together as well as share loved foods that steer away from processed sugars. If you have more than one child you can alternate days or meals.
6. Balance fun activities and restful downtime
The holiday season can be a full and fun time of year, but it can be hard for kids to find balance between holiday cheer and getting enough rest. Make sure that your child isn’t overdoing the holiday activities or staying up too late at night with all their holiday excitement!
Limit the amount of sugar your child has before going to bed to aid the body in slowing down it’s metabolism. Moreover, throughout the day don’t forget to calendar time for restful activities or time your child can be by themselves.
7. Keep main meals times consistent
During the holidays it’s not always easy to plan where and when you will eat. Sticking to a meal plan will help your anxious child feel better about holiday eating and the holiday season as a whole!
Meal planning will help your child experience consistency in energy levels and reduce unwanted behaviors arising because of hunger. Don’t be afraid to pack a lunch and feed your child 2 hours before a big holiday meal! It may just make the day go smoother!
It is important to make sure your kids are eating well during the holiday season. With so many changes, including sugar availability, it can be hard for them to know how to manage their eating habits, their schedule and their big emotions.
Luckily there are some really easy ways you can help regulate their behavior to avoid high highs and low lows (aka a “sugar rush” and a “sugar crash”.) Give one or all of the above tips a try today.
If you need additional help for the holiday season and some new ways to manage your child’s energy and anxiety during this holiday season, we can help.
Simply schedule an appointment with one of our therapists who can provide tools for you to help your anxious child during sugar rush season. And remember, don’t parent alone.
Owner | Child Therapist | LCPC, RPT
Parenting is hard! But you don’t have to do it alone. I work with children and parents to resolve emotional conflict, cultivate healing, and nurture hope.
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