This morning, as I was listening to my shower radio, the DJ mentioned a new poll that showed Christmas is the happiest day of the year. That may not apply to you if you don't celebrate that holiday, of course. And there's also a chance it won't apply if you have a kid with special needs. Because the holidays can be very un-merry for kids who don't like noise, crowds, hustle and bustle, or relatives who pinch their cheeks (come to think of it, I don't like relatives who pinch my cheeks, either).
I'm a Max expert, not a child expert, but over the years I have come up with a few things that have helped make the holidays more ho, ho, ho for kids like Max with special needs:
• I let him pick out his own gifts. Perhaps not as fun as a surprise, but Max doesn't like surprises, even happy ones. Max likes routine, regularity, order, and anything with the Cars 2 logo. Knowing what he's going to get makes him content—a good thing.
• We find calm holiday activities to take the kids to (read: nothing at the mall) and we get there early. Our town sets up an adorable Dickens village every year, complete with miniature homes and horse-driven carriage rides on weekends. We're one of the first people to show up, and both kids really enjoy it. Note, although Santa can wig out kids with special needs, check with the management office at local malls to see if they have early visiting hours and private areas for kids with special needs—some now do. And if they don't? Suggest it, or ask if they'll accommodate your child. Go, you!
• We have a few relatives and their kids over for a holiday party, not a bazillion of them. Smaller crowds are easier on Max... and, bonus, easier on clean-up! (No offense, relatives.)
• During the party, I carve out quiet time for Max. He hangs out in his room and colors or plays a game (or ten) on his iPad. Or I may invite one or two kids to go upstairs and play with him there. If we're at someone else's house, I do the same.
• I'll get a babysitter if there's a big holiday party our family is invited to. I used to feel guilty leaving Max at home while the rest of us went out, but that's his idea of a good time—and that way, we all enjoy.
Oh, and that whole holiday card thing? Max does not like posing for photos, especially for ones with all of us or just with his sis. This used to torment me. But I just let go. I order digital cards designed to feature a bunch of images, and choose one OK family shot and several awesome single shots of the kids.
Letting go of holiday fantasies is a good idea, in general, when it comes to kids with special needs; focus on the reality of what makes your kid happy (and calm) and you'll all be better off.
If all else fails, hit the spiked egg nog.
What sort of tips have you come up with over the years for making the holidays happier for your child?