INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Christmas is going to look very different this year. Fewer presents, if any at all, and many won’t be visiting friends and family like they normally would in Christmas’ past. And some parents and caregivers are experiencing feelings of guilt and sadness because of it. When these feelings surface, it is often difficult to find words to express these feelings not only to themselves but to their children as well.
News 8 spoke with parenting expert, educator and best-selling author, Deborah Ann Davis who says the most important gift you can give children this holiday is the gift of words.
The first thing she recommends for parents is to recognize their own feelings. Children are intuitive, she says, and they will get this feeling that things aren’t right. This can amplify a child’s own feelings of disappointment, fear and sadness.
“I would recommend you have a conversation with them to alleviate their fears by saying we’re going to be fine. Things are changing around us, but we have change all the time anyway, so any changes we have there’s no need to worry. I got your back.”
Davis says these words do three things: calm them, calm parents and reorient children in a way they feel about things which will make them more resilient.
The last thing you want to do, Davis adds, is jump in and cheer them up.
“They need to express it. When someone says don’t worry, this will pass and you’ll get over it, the child feels they haven’t been heard and that makes them feel more isolated. Don’t be afraid of their sadness. Don’t feel that you have to jostle them out of it. Recognize their sadness and talk about it. Then talk about what will make them happy again on Christmas Day and in the days ahead.”
News 8’s medical reporter, Dr. Mary Elizabeth Gillis, D.Ed., is a classically trained medical physiologist and biobehavioral research scientist. She has been a health, medical and science reporter for over 5 years. Her work has been featured in national media outlets. You can follow her on Instagram @reportergillis and Facebook @DrMaryGillis.