The holidays should be a joyous time of the year. They provide opportunities for activities that are out-of-the-ordinary, the celebration of traditions, promote togetherness and simply offer a ‘warm and fuzzy’ feeling. However, as the parent of a special needs child, the holiday season may present a few extra challenges.
Last week we talked about your children and how to help them through the holidays. This week, it’s all about you, the parents, and providing you with the tools to support yourself this season.
Celebrations and activities that are out of the norm can certainly cause confusion, which can lead to an upset child – and upset parents – during the holiday season.
If you are the parent of a special needs child, don’t greet the holiday season with worry at the thought of being stressed. With some proper planning, you can enjoy the holiday season with your child to the fullest.
Here are some simple, yet powerful tips that will make your holiday merry and bright.
- Live in the Moment:
It’s great to have plans, but when it comes to children, especially special needs children, plans can change at the drop of a hat. You can certainly make your holiday plans, but be willing to adjust them based on your child’s reaction. Live in the moment and go with the flow. Your kids will only be young and carefree for so long, enjoy it while you can!
- Make it Simple:
Yes, the holidays are often about elaborate celebrations filled with great fanfare; however, such events may not be received well by children with special needs. Remember that consistency is key with special needs children. Include some special activities for you to enjoy, but don’t go overboard, as to avoid unwanted stress.
What is most important to you during the holiday season? Is it going to church to celebrate? Decorating? Partaking in a traditional family event? Choose one or two things that are of particular importance to you and focus your energy on making those events a success.
- Have an Emergency Plan:
You never know when things can go awry; which is as true for parents of typically developing children as it is for parents of children with special needs. Have a plan in place, should things go sour to add extra security during the chaos of the holidays.
The element of surprise isn’t always the best with special needs children. Taking your child to a parade that interrupts part of his or her daily routine can be quite upsetting. Prepare your child for the changes and discuss events early and in detail so your child knows what to expect in order to reduce the chances of a meltdown.
- Keep Track:
When preparing your child for upcoming holiday events, keeping track of when the event will occur can benefit both you and your child. Post a calendar and count down the days until the event happens. Having a goal in sight can create much excitement and help keep you focused on the positive.
- Think Twice:
Really think about an event and your child’s reaction before you decide to go. If your child is noise sensitive and the event includes loud noises, it might be in everyone’s best interest to avoid such an event. It is easy to get carried away with the planning of the holiday season, however, taking the time to carefully think about your plans may help you avoid much stress.
- Enlist Help:
Remember that there is no shame in asking for help. The holidays are stressful enough for anyone, and they can be particularly more-so for the parent of a special needs child. Ask for help from friends and family members. A little help can go a long way.
- Take a Deep Breath:
Remember that nothing in life is perfect. Stay as cool, calm and collected as possible. Your child will play off of your emotions and when your tensions are high, your child will react – and likely in a negative way.
- Go Easy on Yourself:
Contrary to popular belief, you aren’t a super hero. Despite your best efforts, things can go wrong. Don’t beat yourself up if a meltdown occurs or you can’t attend to everything you planned. Life happens, roll with it and make sure to take some time for yourself and take care of your needs.