How to Get Through the Holidays With a Special Needs Child
Holiday’s can be a difficult time of the year for everyone. There are parties to attend, baking, decorations to put up, Christmas cards to send, presents to buy and dealing with relatives. Parents have the added stress of dealing with their children’s excitement and sometimes anxiety over the holiday season. Many children during this season become hyper and excited for Christmas. Navigating this excitement with a special needs child can be especially challenging.
But you can get through it!
Parents want the best of everything for their children. Enjoying wonderful holiday happenings and celebrations can be a wonderful time for family bonding. There is nothing wrong with wanting your children to participate in these activities. However, parents of special needs children need to learn to manage their expectations when it comes to these festive events. Some children may not be comfortable sitting on Santa’s lap. My friend’s son hates the color red and refuses to speak to Santa for this reason. The Santa pictures would be nice, but is it worth the tears? Some children are content to simply sit on the sidelines and observe at a holiday party. Just because your son or daughter does not want to join the group in making a gingerbread house does not mean they are not having a good time.
Do not beat yourself up because your child is not celebrating the season the way you think they should. Take some time to find out what would make the holiday special for your child. My friend’s child is also completely focused on “blinky lights” and decorating the Christmas tree. He’s been putting the tree up since he was six years old. They let him do it all; the tree, lights and ornaments. Is it the way they would like it? Maybe not, but it means Christmas to him and makes him happy. Come up with your own unique family traditions.
When it comes to family holiday parties and festivities, do not expect your child to dress the way you want him too. If “picky” or “hot” holiday outfits make your child uncomfortable, why bother with it? Let your child decide what to wear. The point should be that he is participating and happy. An uncomfortable child can be a cranky one. The holidays can be loud, bright and stressful for anyone. If your child has sensory issues, uncomfortable clothing can make it worse.
Limit your activities and focus on what works for your family. Dragging a special needs child to three family dinners in two days may be what is expected of you, but does this work for you and your child? It really is okay to say no to some things. Maybe you could stretch the parties out over a couple of weekends. Or you could go and only stay for an hour?
You need to focus on what will make the holiday’s special for your family.
Image cc: freedigitalphotos.net “Christmas Background” by Michal Marcol