On the 16th of November the most popular foreigner of the Netherlands Sinterklaas (or St. Nicolas) sails into the country. More than 80 percent of Dutch families with children will engage themselves in Sinterklaas fever.
International families will also be confronted with excessive purchases of kruidnoten (small gingerbread type biscuits), special programs on TV, Sinterklaas visits at work, school or sport centers, and alike.
Despite all the fun and joy, half of the Dutch population experiences increased amounts of stress during this period. People report more tiredness and sickness. Adults usually complain about extra expenses, worry about purchases, preparations and the amount of eaten sweets.
This all ends up in only 1 out of 5 people being in top condition on the so-called "Pakjesavond" (present night) 5th of December.
Youngsters also feel increased tension. They keep on worrying if they have behaved well, or would black Piet take them to Spain? How would he climb through the chimney or why there are so many Sints walking around?
Especially anxious, autistic children or the ones with ADHD symptoms are more susceptible to tension. They can become more irritable; show increased aggressive behavior, fatigue or insomnia, worsened marks at school.
What can you do to manage your and child’s stress?
Lower your standards. Our own thoughts that everything should go flawless and be perfect create extra stress.
Make a budget in advance how much money you want to spend. Do not postpone buying presents till the last day.
Take into account the age of your kid. Celebration of Sinterklaas at your work can be very exciting for your 10-year-old, but even a short visit of Black Piet in your house could be just too much for your toddler.
Create more transparency with the help of a calendar. Indicate when a child can leave a shoe with carrots (e.g. only in the weekend), when Sinterklaas comes to school, or when a shoe can be brought to a supermarket.
Celebrate the departure of the Sint. Every year he departs from Haarlem. Alternatively, you could go with your child to a port and wave at any boat. Especially anxious children will benefit from this.
And after all, a little bit of stress and festivity fuss is good for any age. Enjoy it!