Holiday Pressure and Kids

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Imagine your boss was watching you 24/7 and evaluating whether you have been “good” at each second of the day.  Based on this vigilant watching, your paycheck would arrive or not arrive.  You weren’t sure.  Was it ok if you chatted for 2 minutes on the phone with your partner about what was for dinner that night?  Or grabbing a coffee on the way to a meeting?  Does that count as “naughty?”

Those questions could pose some serious pressure.

Now imagine your brain isn’t fully developed enough to be able to reason the way our adult mind can.  Imagine people were reminding you everywhere that “your boss is watching!”

The stress for some could feel unsurmountable.  You might eventually breakdown: lying, tears, fits, self deprecation, illness, fatigue.

I paint this picture to give you some insight into what it can be like for many children around the holidays.  It’s an amazing time of year but with it comes the stress of being perfect and being watched.  Yikes!

It might be worthwhile to give your child some room to make mistakes and to empathize with the pressure they may be feeling.  Here are a few things you can say when your child is making some poor choices this holiday season.

  1. While Santa may know when we are naughty or nice, he also knows when we do the right thing even after making a poor choice.  And it matters to him.  Let’s see if you can do the right thing starting now!
  2. I know it can feel hard to do everything right over the holidays with our Elf (name) watching all the time.  But I want you to know, its ok to not be perfect.  Let’s just do our best to treat others the way we want to be treated.  How do you want (person’s name) to treat you right now?  Ok, let’s work on treating them the same way.
  3. Did you know the elves sometimes get angry when their toy making doesn’t turn out the exact way they had hoped?  Sure do!  They have a few tools they use to calm themselves down.  They have a special breathing tool they use and I learned it once when I was a kid.  It’s called the Santa Belly Breath.  First you breath in making your belly as round as Santa’s.  Yes, that’s it!  That big!  Then they hold their breath for a second and slowly let it out…..

Be playful, kind, and loving with your interventions.  The way we approach a situation could really make a difference.

Back to the boss analogy for a moment.  Let’s say your boss came to you and screamed in your face that you better knock it off!  There was no paycheck if you kept it up!  You might feel ashamed, extremely worried, and stressed.  Would you want the same for your child?  Probably not.  You probably want them to stop the behavior or have some remorse.  But shame?  Not exactly.

I ask you to remember to have empathy for the pressure those little people feel and treat your children the way you want to be treated.

Wishing you and your family the very best this holiday season!


I am kind, loving, and playful with myself and those around me.


Free Talk for Social Workers Interested in Private Practice

I am speaking at the NASW- Sonoma Chapter on November 10 from 5:30-7PM for social workers interested in learning more about starting a private practice. Event is located at Cellars of Sonoma in Railroad Square, Santa Rosa.

Participants will earn 1 CEU. If you do plan to attend, please RSVP to so they can plan accordingly. Hope to see you there!

“What They Didn’t Teach You in Grad School: THE LCSW in Private Practice”

Did your graduate school program leave you lacking in the nuts and bolts of how to develop a private practice? Have you ever wondered if private practice might be a good fit for you and feel stumped as to where to start? You are invited to attend “What They Didn’t Teach You in Grad School: The LCSW In Private Practice” presentation by NASW and Sierra Dator, LCSW. Learn about pros and cons of being in private practice, 3 types of private practice settings, what you need to start and much more.
Sierra Dator is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a private practice in Petaluma, CA. She has been working in social work for over 15 years specializing in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and life transitions with youth, adults, and families. Sierra earned a BSW at Keuka College in New York and an MSW at State University of New York at Buffalo. She is an eclectic practitioner drawing from many theories to inform her work including Family Systems, Dora Kalff’s Sandplay, Cognitive Behavioral, Psychodynamic, and Depth Therapy. Sierra also runs Wise Girl Workshops which offers girls in 5th-8th grades the opportunity to develop tools and increase knowledge on how to care for themselves and make healthy decisions through half day and bi weekly workshops.