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A Holiday Message From PerformCare

While the holiday season is typically a time of celebration and happiness, it may pose challenges that can negatively affect behavioral health in youth. In fact, the holidays can be a very stressful time, with changes in children's schedules, and recalling past traumatic events, such as separation from loved ones.

According to The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, children, adolescents, and young adults who are experiencing loss, serious illness, the memory of a lost loved one, or separation from a family member may be at increased risk of developing symptoms related to stress, anxiety, and depression, particularly during the holidays. The holidays can trigger the reminder of a traumatic event and can actually cause or exacerbate depression, stress, and anxiety, turning a joyous time of year into a dark period.

What's more is that for youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the holidays pose additional challenges, as these children may have more difficulty adjusting to environmental changes, changes in daily routine, and less familiar people. Overstimulation from busy schedules, family gatherings, flashing holiday lights, and loud music actually increases anxiety in youth with ASD.

As the contracted system administrator for the New Jersey Children’s System of Care, PerformCare helps parents and youth cope with holiday stressors. During this time of year, we receive more calls related to stress, anxiety, and depression among youth with developmental challenges like ASD and those with behavioral health conditions. What parents need to know is that these conditions are treatable, and the New Jersey Children’s System of Care can help.

Additionally, if parents notice a variation in their child's behavior, such as a change in sleeping or eating patterns, withdrawal from normal activities, and feelings of hopelessness and irritability, these may signify a deeper issue. In these circumstances, parents should seek professional help as soon as possible.

We can quickly link parents and youth with experts who can intervene, understand, and refer treatment options — many for free — for those affected by behavioral health conditions. We maintain a call center at 1-877-652-7624 to handle concerns and, when needed, authorize a mobile response unit for prompt, in-person counseling, usually within one hour of the first call. These services are offered 24/7.

Parents of youth with ASD can help reduce holiday anxiety by implementing simple measures, as shown by Autism Spectrum Therapies:

  • Maintain as normal a routine as possible.
  • Decorate gradually.
  • Reduce loud noise and music.
  • Provide a quiet space, away from guests and other children, where your child can enjoy their new toys without distractions.

From all of us at PerformCare and the New Jersey Children’s System of Care, we wish you and yours a joyous holiday season and our best in 2019.

Kathy Enerlich, Executive Director, PerformCare