The holiday season has begun! Halloween is over and in a few short weeks, it will be Thanksgiving followed by Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Years. The holidays can be filled with family and friends, presents, traditions, and lots of food. This departure from routine can be stressful for anyone especially those with special needs. We have some tips that can help ease some of the holidays stress your child may be feeling.
Try to Maintain Their Schedule as Much as Possible
Obviously if they are a school-aged child going to school during the holidays will not be possible, but what does their weekend schedule look like? You can mimic that as much as possible by trying to stay as close as possible to their regular meal and sleep schedule. Once upon a time, I had a seasoned parent tell me the best way to keep your child content is to make sure they have had enough sleep and food. I can say that still holds true.
Aside from food and sleep, there are other ways to maintain a schedule. Look at your regular schedule and incorporate them in the day. If your child watches tv at 8 am regularly on Saturday morning, then maintain that schedule. Even if you are at a family or friend’s house you can still continue this tradition. A regular schedule equals less anxiety and an increased ability to navigate their world.
If maintaining the schedule is just not possible, then create a schedule for them. Either laminate or slip it into a sheet protector and let them mark off the events as they occur. It is the feeling of the unknown that makes them anxious so giving them knowledge and tools will ease their stress.
Keep it Simple
While the holidays can be magical, some of that magic can come at a cost to a child who struggles from sensory issues. Be aware of your child’s triggers and try your best to avoid them. If you know your child really struggles with lots of sound and music avoid places that are filled with those. Controlling their environment as much as possible can decrease the meltdowns. Obviously, we cannot always control the environment. Everything is busier, louder, and brighter during the holidays and we cannot hide in our homes, but expecting that and having a contingency plan for that restaurant that is having an office party for 30 people can ease everyone’s feelings.
Have Comfort Items Ready and Available
If you know of things that help your child to stay calm, now is the time to have them at your disposal. Favorite toys, blankets, or even a favorite outfit can be helpful on that special occasion or day. I don’t always suggest using electronics, but if you know the situation is going to set your child off then having an electronic device and headphones, could really make everyone feel better.
Use the Five Senses Technique
You may have heard of this before, but it really does help ground a child who is struggling.
- Name five things you can see in the room right now.
- Name four things you can feel right now (ex. The carpet).
- Name three things you can hear right now.
- Name two things you can smell right now.
- Name one thing you can taste right now.
Breathe Mom and Dad, Just Breathe
Mom and dad, you’ve got this! You know your child better than anyone else. Use those experiences to come up with strategies that work for your child and know that this is only one day.
Have a strategy that works for your child, we would love to hear it.