Wound Too Tight: Many kids are already on holiday overload, racing from activity to activity. But parents can help them slow down.

FLIPPING THE calendar over to December is a little like opening the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby. Before you have a chance to rein them in, your kids are off on the track of holiday parties, school plays, concerts, recitals, visits with Santa, at least one “Nutcracker” performance and special invites with friends and family. In between there’s homework and making presents. It’s no wonder that in their mad dash to the holiday finish line, many will suffer from insomnia, crankiness and even depression.

To help lighten your children’s holiday load–and consequently, your own–consider these tips:

–Keep their age and temperament in mind. Babies can usually sleep anywhere, but toddlers used to going to bed at 8 p.m. will not make it through a party calmly. If you know you’ll be up past their bedtime, hire a sitter or send your regrets.

–Try not to schedule too many events in a row. Try for one event a weekend, not three, so you can all rest and discuss what made the event special.

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–Make sure young children have some down time every day.

–Remember that children need to be active. Toddlers confined to the car for a few hours can’t be expected to leap out and sit quietly at Grandma’s.

–If your holiday involves travel, realize that children have to make adjustments. Plan activities they would enjoy, make compromises and sacrifices and don’t just pull them along.

–Let kids help you with the preparations, but give them time. Don’t ask them to help you set the table if you need it done in five minutes.

–Recognize that children’s tolerance for excitement and new things is much lower than adults’ – and that includes uncomfortable dress-up clothes that they can’t get dirty, different foods and people they don’t know.

–Allow plenty of time for hugs and kisses.

–Set aside time to communicate. Part of stress management is allowing time to discuss events with your children. Talk about what the holidays are all about.

And keep your own perspective. When the race to the holidays is over, it’s more important that kids can look back and say they enjoyed their celebrations with their family than that they accomplished many activities.

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