For most, the holidays are a time of excitement, anticipation and joy. But for some, especially families who have children or relatives of any age with a disability or special healthcare need, holidays are different than the idealistic images portrayed on television and in movies.
Big events, schedule changes, travel and even Santa can mean anxiety and stress instead of holiday cheer. Here are a few tips and resources to make the most of the holidays.
Remember that communication is key. Changes in routine can be problematic for children and adults, but this is particularly true for those with special healthcare needs. Talk about the events of the holidays and the various activities, people attending and even the food. Avoiding surprises helps ease everyone’s anxiety.
Know it’s okay to be choosy. Schedules are full this time of year, but families can pick and choose what’s best for them. Determine what parties or gatherings will be most enjoyable for everyone in your family and remember it’s okay to decline an invitation. And to ease the anxiety and stress caused by the events that make the calendar, try role-playing, scripting or social stories related to holiday festivities. This increases understanding of the experiences ahead and will make them more enjoyable for everyone.
Be flexible. With the routine already changing, it’s not the best time to push a certain diet or a specific dress code. Of course, children must eat more than just cookies at the holiday gathering but they surely can have a say in what they wear or the food they do add to their plates.
Remember the comfort items. Taking along a small toy or book, or a favorite blanket for an overnight stay, will help a child feel more secure in a new or different environment. Providing something for a child to focus on helps make the experience better for everyone.
Regardless of what your holiday schedule includes, a change in the school or therapy routines are guaranteed. There’s no right or wrong way to spend the days, except by doing what’s best for your family. After all, holidays are about being together and spending time with the people you love – regardless of what that involves.
– Holiday Behavior Worksheet for Your Child