Helping Parents Manage the Stress of the Holiday Season

Who hasn't seen a child pester a parent for candy while standing in line at the grocery-store checkout? Maybe you've even seen a temper tantrum erupt if the answer was "no."

It's a scene that plays out regularly when parents and children are out and about. But rather than turn a blind eye to the situation, parenting experts urge members of the community to watch how parents react to the situation.

If you see signs that the parent is frustrated or in danger of losing his or her cool, you may be in a position to help defuse the tension and protect a child. The current economic conditions and the stresses of the
holiday season are likely to increase the pressure on parents and make them more vulnerable to overreacting, said Karen S. Days, president of the Columbus Coalition Against Family Violence.

Rather than rolling your eyes or giving the family dirty looks, Days said, try offering a kind word.

"It's important that as a community, we find appropriate ways to intervene," Days said.

Suitable respo nses might include blaming the store for putting so many temptations at eye level for children or sharing a story about how your own children have misbehaved at the store.

"Distract that parent from what is going on," Days said. "Commiserate with them."

Of course, bystanders should be wary of intervening in a situation that seems violent or dangerous, Days said. But for the most part, offering a stranger a kind word in a stressful moment is a safe way to help someone else calm down and pull it together.

The key is to not appear as if you're judging the family, said Kristi Burre, associate director of intake and assessment for Franklin County Children Services.

Getting upset with your children is part of parenting, Burre said. That's why it's useful for the community to work together to support parents.

"It's more putting yourself in their shoes and chit-chatting with them - letting them know you know how they feel," she said. "All people get frustrated and overwhelmed. That's natural."