Is it just us, or has Halloween become a bigger deal in recent years? We used to think of the holiday season as starting in November with the lead up to Thanksgiving, but now, the holiday season very much begins even before October, which makes it a very long and sometimes very challenging time of year – especially for children with special needs and their families.
While the holidays can and should be a lot of fun, they can also be overwhelming, stressful, and marked by lots of unfamiliar faces, strange foods, and disruptions in the regular routine. In an effort to help make this holiday season more enjoyable for everyone in your family, here are our top tips to help both you and your little ones through the holiday season.
1. Take the pressure off.
Perhaps our most important piece of advice is to go easy on yourself this holiday season. You may love setting the perfect Thanksgiving table or having every last family member over to your house for Christmas, but there’s just no need to put all of that pressure on yourself and your family. It’s ok to cut a few corners and let other people help you. When you reduce your stress levels, that gives you more time and energy to spend with your kids. And kids can definitely sense our stress, so if you’re relaxed, that will help them relax, too.
2. Prepare your friends and family.
If your little one doesn’t like to be touched, take the time to send a gentle reminder to any visitors before they arrive. You can include tips on ways to greet your child that she’ll appreciate, such as a high five or a fist bump. You might also want to prep visitors on when your child might need some alone time or quiet time and ask them to leave their big dogs or loud party poppers at home this year.
3. Create a safe space.
If your child gets easily overwhelmed by too much noise or too many people, it’s important that you have a space in your home – or whatever house you visit – where they can go to get away from all the excitement if they need to. Make sure any other kids know to leave that space alone. You can also invest in some noise canceling headphones for your child so she can find some peace even in noisy groups or while out and about.
4. Prepare some calming activities.
Sometimes holidays involve long plane rides, sitting through class plays, church services – any number of sitting situations where your child is likely to get fidgety and bored. Plan ahead for these experiences by making a goodie bag of quiet activities for your child to enjoy. Some great, easy to pack options include stickers, an Etch-a-Sketch, Silly Putty, and favorite – or brand new – books with things to touch, things to look for, or flaps to lift.
5. Practice gift giving.
If your child doesn’t always do so well with giving or receiving presents, it can be very helpful to practice. You can wrap up an existing toy that’s been in the closet for a while to practice opening presents. You can also draw some cards with your child and then exchange them.
6. Remember to enjoy some intimate family time.
One way to help make the holidays special and less overwhelming for your child can be to find a new holiday tradition that you can enjoy with just your immediate family. For example, many railways do train rides with Santa during the holidays. Or you can keep it simple and take your child for a quiet night-time walk to look at all the decorated houses in December.
For more tips or advice about specific holiday events, feel free to give our office a call. Our therapists are always here to help.