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!

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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


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