Extended Family for Kids, a curriculum of lessons created by Laure Clemons for her family after her husband was incarcerated, includes a lesson called “Stress Busters.” The holidays can be particularly stressful for families who have a loved one who is absent because of incarceration. Stress Busters includes many helpful suggestions to help kids reduce stress and manage frustration in healthy ways that will not get them into trouble.
Included in the lesson are ten specific tips to use during the holidays, and, whether or not you have a loved one who is incarcerated this holiday season, we can all use a few helpful hints to get us through the stress of the holidays!
#1 – Give yourself a break. When your loved one is absent, the holidays may feel “less perfect,” and stress may be higher.
#2 – Start a new tradition. Create new traditions with the family and friends who are celebrating with you, or something just for you that you celebrate on your own.
#3 – Keep an old tradition. A family member may be missing, but you can still practice favorite family customs.
#4 – Include your absent family member. You can send pictures of your celebration to your loved one who is incarcerated and include a handwritten letter or card.
#5 – Follow the directions for sending gifts. Be sure to read the prison’s rules on sending packages to prisoners and follow the instructions carefully.
#6 – Let it out. Sometimes you just need to cry or scream into a pillow to feel better. Find what works best for you to release your stress before it becomes overwhelming.
#7 – Go with the flow. Nothing is perfect and change is part of life. Give yourself permission to enjoy every moment, even those that are “less than perfect,” and learn to be flexible.
#8 – Lend a hand. Helping others is healing and can cheer you up. Do something nice for a neighbor or find ways to volunteer in your community – anything to help someone else.
#9 – Be appreciative. Your family may have less money at this time, fewer gifts, or other extras. Take time to be thankful for what you have and be a good example by expressing gratitude to your family.
#10 – Being sad is okay. Remember, feeling sad sometimes, especially during the holidays, is a normal part of life and will not last forever.Missing loved ones for any reason during the holidays can increase sadness and stress. Remember these tips and that you are not alone! For more helpful tips on reducing stress and other topics for families of the incarcerated, visit our website, www.extendedfamilyhelp.org.