With the holidays quickly approaching it is important to recognize that although this time of year brings many fun and festive activities such as parties, outings, and family gatherings, it can also be a source of stress for children, especially those with special needs. Children with special needs often rely heavily on the predictability of a routine and schedule and we need to be aware of this with all the hustle and bustle around the holidays. Here are some tips that might be helpful for not only children with special needs but all children!
Maintain a routine- Keeping with a predictable routine helps children stay calm and in control. When possible maintain your typical routines and when you can’t avoid changing the routine make sure you communicate this change to your child. Preparing them for changes allows them to have more time to process the change. You may want to consider using a visual support like a calendar or countdown chart to mark a special occasion or change that is up-and-coming.
Avoid stressful situations- Going to the mall, grocery store, or even driving in the car during the holiday season can make a simple errand turn into an event. When possible utilize a friend, family member, or neighbor to watch your child as you complete these errands. Your child will thank you!
Traveling in planes, trains, and automobiles- This is a hard one even for adults! Bringing along their favorite games, snacks, or toys can always help but to make things a little more interesting purchase small items to give as you reach certain milestones on the trip. For example, we just passed through Saint Louis, let’s look in the bag marked Saint Louis for a special treat/toy. This will make the hours in the car,train, or plane a little bit more bearable for all!
Maintain your own stress level- Kids learn through example and if you become stressed they will most likely follow suit. Make sure you are taking care of yourself first- getting enough sleep, eating well,taking a little time for yourself. Everyone wants the holidays to be a positive and joyous occasion for all.
Don’t put your kids on the spot- We all know that Aunt Sarah only gets to see Johnny two times a year and she wants to know everything that happen from the 4th of July to now. However, lots of kids have difficulties thinking on the spot. One way to prepare your child is to have Johnny write out a few key events from the past few months prior to the family event, or role play with your child what Aunt Sarah might ask and what the answers should sound like and what it should look like when you are speaking to Aunt Sarah.
Let me know if these tips are helpful! Have a joyous holiday season everyone!