1. Keep routines going to avoid the hype of the “countdown” to Christmas
Whilst some may cope with the “countdown to Christmas”, knowing your child, you may find it easier to play this down if it is likely to increase their stress. Either way, it is very hard to ignore these days when it is on TV, in the shops and in schools, so try to keep as many of their routines going as possible over this period.
2. Plan for when things get too much
Plan for your child’s potential behaviour triggers, consider what can be avoided or reduced to a minimum, and think about where they can go or what they can do if things get too much. It can be a very overstimulating day, with lots of ‘new things’ to deal with, so plan some quiet, low-stimulus times throughout the day.
3. Set aside time for them to do what THEY enjoy
Our version of enjoyment might be quite different from our child’s, so try to factor in times where they can engage in their own interests.
4. Allow them to sit back and watch
Your child may be happier watching the larger family group activities from a periphery, such as having their Christmas dinner on a small table nearby, if they struggle with too many people in close proximity.
5. Help family members choose suitable presents
Help family members choose suitable presents that match your child’s interests or developmental stage. Also, let them know you may not open them all on Christmas day, as this may be overwhelming.
Some useful ideas for sensory items may be found on Special Needs Toys. For wheelchair users, try Have Wheelchair Will Travel‘s Christmas gift ideas, and for children with multiple and complex needs there are some excellent sensory stories created by Scope storybooks for special needs children. There are also some fun and educational apps for phones and tablets.
If family members are struggling to think of ideas, you could always suggest an afternoon or evening of babysitting, to allow you time to go for a meal, cinema, spa or similar treat.
6. Don’t sweat the small stuff!
Better to have a happy relaxed family day than worry about having everything perfect. The people that love and care about you will understand what is important!
7. Accept offers of help and make life easier for yourself
Take advantage of any shortcuts or offers of help with catering, shopping online or looking after children on the day. Remember, if your child only eats certain foods then this is not the day to try to change his/her diet, so have on offer what they will eat.
8. Look after yourselves!
Take some time to recharge your batteries and to relax! Check out some mindfulness and relaxation techniques or go for a walk, as physical exercise is excellent at de-stressing. Treat yourself to some time out!
9. Prepare a visual timetable or short Social Story
Prepare a visual timetable for the day or the holiday if this will help your child know the plans for each day and thereby reduce their anxiety or stress. Making a short Social Story about Christmas can also help them learn and understand what will be happening and can suggest some coping strategies for the potential ‘trigger points’. Here are some great resources from The Success Box.
10. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself
Don’t set your expectations too high and put pressure on yourself to do too much over the holiday period. Have fun and enjoy yourself, as it is the simple things in life that are most important.
Merry Christmas from everyone at SensationALL!