Thursday, December 20, 2018

4 ways to help your child have a happier holiday

Of course you want to make the holidays as jolly as possible for your kids. Yet the hustle and bustle of family celebrations and parties can overwhelm children with sensory issues; others might find the break in routine unsettling (and meltdown-inducing). Check out these strategies from fellow parents of cihldren with disabilities that have enabled their kids to have truly happy holidays and peace on earth.

Teach Other Kids About Your Kids

To help other children understand her daughters Evangeline and Polly, twins with Down syndrome, Gillian Marchenko has sent out an educational e-mail before the holidays to families they plan on visiting. "Friends and family are grateful for the advice," she says. It includes pointers such as:
Your friend might need more time to answer questions or finish an activity.
Some kids with special needs can be focused on one topic; even though it can get annoying, it makes him feel special when you listen and appreciate the things he loves.
Kids with special needs are often made fun of or bullied. Be brave and defend your friend.

Help Kids Prepare

"My autistic son thrives on routine and feeling informed, which has made the chaos of the holidays hard for him at times," says Shannon Des Roches Rosa, mom to Leo (who has autism) and a blogger at Squidalicious.
 "When he was younger, a visual schedule helped him understand why and how his routine will change, allowed him to focus on the fun to come and lowered his anxiety over being in a different place with different people."
 She's used apps to create visual schedules, and has made paper ones, too. "We've included pictures of the people we'll be seeing," explains Rosa. "We've also use icons of Christmas trees, presents, and turkey dinner, so Leo could relax and get into the holiday spirit!"

Hire a (Sitter) Elf to Help
"Years ago, when our family was invited to a Hannukah party, the first thing we did was book a babysitter to take along with us," says Jana Banin, mom to Zack, who has autism. "We knew the noise and crowded space would be too much for Zack -- and we wanted to make sure he had a good time and we did, too."
 Banin, who blogs at I Hate Your Kids (And Other Things Autism Parents Won't Say Out Loud), knew her strategy would help: "The sitter could play with him, make sure he didn't grab a cookie from someone else's plate and make sure he didn't wander out onto the street. The evening was a success! Zack and [the babysitter] checked out all the different food, snacked, curled up on the couch as he played his iPad. Since then, we bring our sitter with us to parties."

Let It Go
The healthiest thing for you and your child is to quit wishing for the holidays to happen in a certain way. Stuff won't go well (perhaps comically so) or anywhere near like you envisioned. Sometimes, I forget this. I got Max a cool toy for the holidays this year, a Magnatab. He took one look at it and said, and I quote, "Ewwww." Yep, he still has a thing or two to learn about being polite about gifts, but I wasn't upset. I knew there was a possibility he wouldn't like what I chose (he's pretty picky), and my psyche was ready for it. It's not like you should expect the worst with your children and the holidays. It's more like: Don't set your hopes too high. Be realistic. Roll with it. And drink some wine.

A version of this piece originally appeared on Care.

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Thanks for sharing!

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