The holiday season is upon us! The sights, smells, and traditions of the holidays are special in many ways. They help put us in the spirit of celebration and thankfulness. However, if you are a parent of a child with special needs, you know that all the activities that come along with the holidays often causes major disruptions with your child’s state and ability to function.
So, how do you manage the hustle and bustle of the holidays while enjoying the festivities and expectations of the season with your special needs child? There are many ways you can adapt your busy schedule to accommodate your child:
- Try to Maintain as Much of a Routine Schedule as Possible
Although this may be especially difficult during this busy season, try to maintain morning, mealtime and bedtime routines as close as possible to your child’s typical schedule. If your child receives therapy to address his/her needs, try to maintain a consistent therapy schedule. There’s so much security and comfort for little ones in knowing what to expect.
- Try to Maintain Reasonable Expectations
Everyone has an idea of what a “perfect” holiday looks like. Unfortunately, for most people, there is no such thing as a perfect holiday! Be flexible, allowing the mindset that events do not always go as planned. The reality is that adjustments may have to be made. It’s the time shared together that matters most.
- Try to Schedule Enough Time
Try to make sure that you have not over-scheduled yourself or your child. Ensure that you have ample time to attend events (including pick-up and transport time). If you are able to plan ahead, you may be able to avoid a feeling of being rushed. When parents are over-scheduled, children can often sense and internalize the anxiety, which can impact their appetite in engaging holiday fun.
- Bring Your Child’s Own Food and Snacks
The holiday season is a time when different or “new” foods and drinks are served. Holiday parties and events may not be the most optimal time to introduce new foods to your child, especially when paired with the disruption of routines that are inherent to the season. Planning ahead by packing “refusal-proof” snacks and/or meals that you know your child will eat may decrease the stress of holiday activities.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Refuse
It is perfectly okay to opt out of holiday parties that you or your child may not be up to, especially if you anticipate large crowds with lots of noise. Prioritize events and decline on the guilt trip! Your child will benefit more from a quiet night at home than an event that may leave him or her (and maybe even you!) primed for a helpless meltdown.
- Try to Enlist as Much Help as Possible
We all need help from time to time, and the holidays are no exception. Allow others to pitch in to cook meals for family gatherings, wrap presents, or even to shop can be a great help. Additionally, try to arrange for help with your child during parties or other events so that you have support taking care of your child’s needs, as well as time to enjoy the festivities yourself.
- Take Care of Yourself
During the holidays, it is easy to forget to take care of yourself! Try to ensure that you are getting proper rest, nutrition, and exercise so that the stress of the holiday season doesn’t take a toll on your health and well-being.
Holidays can be stressful under any circumstance, but following these guidelines can make the season merrier and more enjoyable for all!