Family Stress Over Holiday Season Leads to Unhealthy Coping

For some, the winter holidays are the most wonderful time of year. For others, it brings out their inner Grinch, irritated by the joy other people seem to be experiencing during a period of intense family stress. Teens look forward to unstructured time over winter break, but it often only takes a few days of time off school for arguments to start between family members. With their parents stressed out with buying gifts and planning parties, teens are expected to be involved in more household chores and family activities. If they believe this threatens their freedom, they are more likely to engage in defiant and risky behaviors. 

Identifying Possible Challenges Over Winter Break

When teens are out of school for an extended period of time, it is helpful to have a game plan with clear expectations about how they want to structure their time in order to avoid potential arguments. Many parents notice that their child has been struggling with mental health issues when they spend more time together over winter break.
As your teen may be used to spending most of their week with friends, they may seem isolated at home and spend more time in their room or on their phone than engaging with family. This might be a red flag that they are feeling lonely or hiding something. They may get defensive if you try to set limits on their screen time or video game use and rationalize it as time off. 
While you may have a calendar planned full of social events for the whole family, they may be resistant to join in or protest seeing specific people. These events may bring up social anxiety and fear of personal questions from other adults that they may not know how to answer.
Social events over the holiday season may be tempting for teens who have experimented with alcohol, as it is often available at most parties they attend. Along with potential legal consequences of underage drinking or drinking under the influence, regularly drinking at events over the holiday season can lead to problems breaking the habit in the new year. 

Coping with Holiday Family Stress

Teens are very perceptive and tend to imitate the behaviors of those around them. If they see you stressing out over every little detail about the holidays, they will likely do the same. In order to deal with stress, they turn to ways to escape. Perceived stress relievers for troubled teens include:

  • Disordered eating
  • Substance abuse
  • Self-harm
  • Risky behaviors
  • Video games 
  • Social media

If you are concerned about how family stress is affecting your teen over the holiday season, winter break can be a good time to reach out for professional help! 
For more information about holiday celebrations at Trails Carolina, check out the following resources:

Trails Carolina Can Help

Trails Carolina is a wilderness therapy program that helps teens ages 10-17 who are struggling with behavioral and emotional issues. This program uses adventure-based therapy to help students gain a new sense of self-awareness, confidence, and independence. The skills they learn throughout the wilderness program offer long-term benefits towards their ability to successfully self-navigate in the real world. By removing teens from their fast-paced environment into a safe, nurturing, and peaceful environment, they are able to focus on improving and reflecting upon their behavior.
Contact us at 800-975-7303. We can help your family today!

Posted in ,
Avatar of Jeremy Whitworth

Jeremy Whitworth

As Executive Director at Trails Carolina, a leading wilderness therapy program for youth and teens, I oversee operations and collaborate with our leadership team. Since 2022, I've also hosted the Common Ground Podcast for parents: With a background in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education, I've managed adventure-based therapeutic programs across the US and Canada. My experiences in competitive athletics and adventure sports have honed my leadership, risk assessment, and decision-making skills, which I apply to running a successful business like Trails Carolina.

Get started today

Contact us today to learn how Trails Carolina can help your family

Contact Us LP

Trails saved my daughter’s life. Amanda is an amazing human and a brilliant therapist. I am so grateful to her, Science Steve, and the other wonderful people who could reach my daughter at a time when I could not.

Margot Lowman August 2022

Great life changing experience for our son. After becoming addicted to gaming during covid he was very depressed. At Trails he experienced the wilderness, Science Steve, learning survival skills and top notch therapy and support etc… I highly recommend! This gave our son and our family a renewed family bond full of love and excitement about his bright future.

Winnifred Wilson July 2022


Outstanding clinical work and superb staff! There’s a great culture at this company and it shows with how they engage with families/clients.

Kristin Brace June 2022


Discover If Trails Is The Right Program For Your Child

Take our short online assessment and help us better understand how we can help your family.

A teen stands at the meeting point of two trails in the forest, one leading higher towards the light and one leading down into darkness

Top 5 Common Myths About Wilderness Therapy For Youth: Understanding The History and Today’s Reality

Today, families have access to supportive, safe, and nurturing therapeutic treatment programs. Modern wilderness therapy programs, like Trails Carolina, are far from the punitive boot camps they are often portrayed as. 
A red-headed young woman sits on a hilltop overlooking forested mountains in front of her.

Treatment For Anxiety In Teens: How Wilderness Therapy Can Help

At Trails Carolina, we will give your child the skills to manage anxiety in real-time as soon as they arrive on our campus. They will very quickly gain a sense of belonging at Trails because of the sense of community that naturally occurs with the other students who are dealing with the common struggles of learning to manage adolescent anxiety.
Treating Oppositional Defiant Disorder - A teen boy in a beanie and a sweatshirt glowers at the viewer in the woods.

Dealing with Defiance: Six Tips for Decreasing Defiant Behavior

Most parents know what is like to live with a defiant teenager. Teens often feel inclined to push buttons and test the limits enforced upon them. This can be extremely frustrating for parents and create a constant power struggle within the home. The teenage years are when one is trying to figure out where they…
family reuniting - trails carolina reviews
Trails Carolina’s wilderness camps for troubled teens are dedicated to helping teens work through behavioral or emotional difficulties, build trusting relationships with their family and peers, and achieve academic success.