As enjoyable as the holiday season is, it can also become a very stressful time of year due to traveling, shopping, family commitments, and parties. The disruption of routines, unfamiliar sights, smells and increased noise in general can be especially overwhelming for children with autism and other forms of learning disability.
Here are some helpful tips to avoid becoming overwhelmed over the holidays:
Plan ahead. Kids thrive on routines, predictability; therefore, structure is important for children especially during the holidays. It’s always helpful to advance plan for an event and travel during off-peak hours. Prepare your child about what to expect and the rewarding feeling obtained by thinking of others needs and being kind and helpful. Set guidelines for your children and remember to praise, appreciate, encourage and acknowledge their good behavior. Give relatives and guests advance notice about any particular needs of your child and how they can help you; for example: hold off on perfume/cologne, modify the gift wrap and cards so your child with fine motor skill challenges can open them easily.
Schedule some quiet times or establish ‘quiet zones’ in your house. Children pick up on parent’s stress levels. Be mindful of how you are feeling and if you notice anyone in your family showing signs of overwhelm, take a step back, use your quiet zones and relaxation or deep-breathing techniques to help to quiet the mind and reframe the approach to the situation. Prepare a backpack of things your child finds comforting. If they get overstimulated, use a quiet zone and pull out the backpack.
Healthy Treats and Activity - It’s easy to over-indulge around the holidays. Limit foods that can negatively impact your energy levels, for example: the refined sweets, foods with a lot of preservatives and chemical coloring. Have fresh fruit and raw veggies to be an option for snacking.
Everyone’s holiday traditions and forms of celebrating are different. Don’t become overwhelmed thinking everything needs to be perfect but rather prepare and remind yourself of the true meaning of the holidays.
Sterland, Emma. 13 Holiday Survival Tips for Your Child with Special Needs. Dec. 12, 2012. Posted on Friendship Circle
National Stress Free Holidays Month. FedSource. ComPsych Corporation. 2004.
National Stress Free Holiday Month. Georgia Department of Corrections. December 10, 2015.