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With holidays upon us, mental health experts offering advice for parents

For some children, large family gatherings and changes in routine can cause stress. Here's how parents can help the adjustment.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — With the holiday season upon us, psychologists are reminding parents to be aware of their children's mental health. For some young people, large Thanksgiving gatherings and changes in routine can be unsettling and challenging.

For Amanda Baker - a mother of two - the holidays can be both exhilarating and exhausting.

"It's a change because they are used to the routine and now they are out of the routine," Baker said.

"Kids often don't share the worries that they are thinking about," Dr. Stuart Burgess, a developmental psychologist, told ABC24.

That's why Dr. Burgess said parents should be on notice as we enter the holiday season. Some of the things to keep an eye on could be a change in children's overall mood, sleep schedule or appetite.

 "It's important for us to pay attention to the fact that they maybe are out of schedule, having more treats than normal, different kinds of attention or lack of attention going on," Dr. Burgess added.

He said some children also react differently in larger group settings, especially Thanksgiving.

"If you see your child start to misbehave or seem sad or starting to withdraw from the group then a little quiet time or breaks or downtime can be really helpful," Dr. Burgess said.

Since holiday routines are different for children, child mental health experts also suggest smaller activities to mix things up. 

That could include family board games, card games or indoor scavenger hunts. Dr. Burgess said outdoor exercise is also key for kids, which Baker also endorses. 

"Fresh air, a walk, even though its cold outside, a little walk in the fresh air with the cold sunshine does a lot to brighten the mood," Dr. Burgess said.

"We just make the best effort to get them outside when we can try to catch up on the naps and sleep schedule when possible," Baker added.

Psychologists say children can also struggle during the first holiday without a family member. Experts suggest parents help their children make a special card in their honor and to let children know while it's OK to be sad, it's also important to highlight happy memories of that loved one.


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