Enjoy a Less-Stress Holiday With These Tips

Written by Lisa Honold | Published November 23, 2021

This winter we invite you to focus on positivity and connecting with your family as a way to decrease stress and its negative consequences on your health.

For many extended families, the Pandemic limited social gatherings and many children are now expressing social anxiety in large groups. One way to lessen anxiety is to plan some family-appropriate activities in advance. We’ve got you covered with our 2021 list of family-approved shows and activities, as well as a few shows to avoid.

If you’ve got tweens or teens, chances are you’ve heard them describe situations as “awkward” often. Entering a roomful of relatives they haven’t seen in a year or two can feel awkward and anxiety-provoking. Having a television show on in the background is a way to enter the situation with less awkwardness , but it’s important to make sure the show or movie is appropriate for the family.

Online safety tips for the holiday season:

  • It’s easy to get distracted by the holidays, cooking big meals, sleepovers, having extra people visiting. Be sure to keep track of kids’ devices -- keep them out of private spaces like bedrooms.

  • Streaming inappropriate videos or shows can happen from any device. Block kids’ devices from streaming or accessing the internet at night by setting up “bedtimes” on their devices (use technology like Bark or Circle to make it easier).

  • Set up a child account on streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime and use parental controls to limit what kids can access.

  • Have your child ask you about unfamiliar TV shows or movies before starting them. You can do a quick search online to look for reviews.

  • Adults, if you’re watching a show with mature content, propose waiting until the kids are in bed or watch in another room. Use a small screen and earbuds if you’re watching with kids present.

  • Avoid content that glorifies violence (Squid Game), depicts teens in risky or life-threatening situations (Panic), is rated R or “mature”, even if your child says they’re the only ones who haven’t seen it. Here is a partial list of other shows to avoid: A Tale Dark & Grimm, Alice in Borderland, Jackass (for its physically dangerous stunts, crudeness, and pressuring others to do stupid dares), Ridiculousness (for its failed do-it-yourself attempts at stunts, to which the hosts add commentary, Hunger Games, Flatliners, 13 Reasons Why, Catfish (for normalizing sexting).

  • Suggest these shows instead: The Princess Bride, Lost in Space, A Christmas Story, Hugo, Cars, Toy Story, The Incredibles, Mary Poppins, A Series of Unfortunate Events (not for littles).

If your family is looking forward to some screen-time over the holidays, here are some activities you can do together.

  • Facetime or Zoom family or friends not able to visit

  • Interview family members about their favorite holiday or favorite gift they gave or received as a child and make a video compilation of their answers

  • Put together a digital scrapbook of 2021 photos

Perhaps this year you’ll propose a dedicated time for screen-free family fun, to make memories together. Here are some ideas to connect as a family that don’t include screens.

  • Play charades

  • Interview family members about their favorite holiday or favorite gift they gave or received as a child

  • Get out a deck of cards

  • Play Uno

  • Play Apples to Apples

  • Start a tradition to go for a family walk after a holiday meal

  • Put together a jigsaw puzzle

  • Bake cookies and decorate them

  • Color or paint

  • Zentangle or doodle

  • Cover the dinner table with butcher paper and encourage everyone to draw, color or write inspiring words

Lisa Honold is director for the Center for Online Safety and co-chair of the Children's Screen Time Action Network's work group: Cyberbullying & Online Safety.

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