The holiday season is a time of joy, celebration, and togetherness. It's a time when families come together to create lasting memories and share in the spirit of giving. However, for families with children who have supportive needs, the holiday season can bring unique challenges and stressors. With the multitude of social activities, sensory overload, and changes in routine, it's important to be proactive in ensuring that children with supportive needs have a positive and enjoyable experience. In this blog post, we'll explore practical ways to assist and help children with supportive needs navigate the upcoming busy holiday season.
Some simple ways you can help everyone ease into the holiday season are:
One of the most important steps in helping children with supportive needs during the holidays is careful planning. Start by creating a schedule or visual calendar that outlines the upcoming events and activities. Share this calendar with your child to prepare them for what's to come. This predictability can help ease anxiety and reduce uncertainty. Google calendar works great for organizing and color coding everyones schedules and activities.
Children with supportive needs often thrive on routine and consistency. While it's natural for routines to be disrupted during the holidays, try to maintain a semblance of a regular schedule. Ensure that mealtimes and sleep patterns remain as consistent as possible to provide stability and comfort for your child. Cozi and Trello are two great apps for time management and keeping up routines.
Many holiday gatherings and events can be overwhelming in terms of sensory input. Be mindful of your child's sensitivities and prepare accordingly. Bring noise-canceling headphones or sunglasses if necessary, and inform hosts about your child's sensory needs. Create a sensory-friendly space where your child can take breaks if needed. Here are some great sensory friendly holiday activities.
Communication is Key
Effective communication is essential. Talk to your child about the upcoming events, explain what to expect, and discuss any potential challenges. Encourage them to express their feelings and needs. It's also important to communicate with family and friends about your child's unique requirements, so they can provide support and understanding. For some tips on how to best communicate with your child, please take a look at this resource from the National Council for Special Education.
Choose Inclusive Activities
Look for inclusive and sensory-friendly activities that your child can enjoy. Many communities offer adaptive events, such as sensory-friendly Santa visits or quiet holiday lights displays. These can be a wonderful way for your child to participate in the festivities in a comfortable and supportive environment. School is one environment that your children will be in often that it is easy to become overwhelmed. Consider sharing some of these inclusive ideas with your child's teachers and therapists.
Set Realistic Expectations
It's crucial to set realistic expectations for both yourself and your child. Understand that not every holiday event will go perfectly, and that's okay. Focus on the joy of spending quality time together rather than striving for perfection. Chadd.org shares some wonderful pointers on how to keep expectations in check for both you and your children.
Self-Care for Caregivers
Taking care of yourself is equally important. The holiday season can be stressful for parents and caregivers, so make sure to carve out time for self-care and rest. You'll be better equipped to support your child if you are well-rested and stress-free. Some ideas for self care during the holidays can be found here.
Seek Professional Guidance
If you're facing significant challenges, don't hesitate to reach out to professionals who specialize in supportive needs. They can offer guidance, resources, and coping strategies that are tailored to your child's specific needs. National Association of Mental Illness offers an extensive guide to help you find the type of help you need. this directory covers basically every topic and has literature, telephone, and in person help for a variety of topics and populations.
The holiday season should be a time of joy and inclusivity for all. By planning ahead, maintaining routines, considering sensory needs, and fostering open communication, you can help children with supportive needs enjoy a positive and memorable holiday season. Remember that the most important thing is the love and support you provide, and that will create lasting, cherished holiday memories for your family.
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