● Plan visits with family and friends for short periods of time. If you plan short visits, your child is less likely to get overtired or overwhelmed. If possible, try to keep the visitors to a few at a time as well.
● Do not force your child to participate in activities they do not like. If you are having a family dinner and your child does not want to sit at the table with a lot of people, let them sit where they are comfortable. This should be a fun time of year for everyone and some children don’t feel comfortable doing certain activities that they are not used to. If you can plan fun activities that you know your child will enjoy ahead of time, that may help as well.
● Try to keep your child’s schedule. If bedtime is at eight in the evening, stick to it as close as possible. Explain to visitors that your child’s needs come first, and they need their sleep. Taking a sleepy child somewhere is asking for trouble. If there is something that requires them to stay up later in the evening, try to get a nap in the afternoon. This will help the child enjoy the activity later in the day.
● Spread holiday activities out over a few days. This way, your child does not become too overwhelmed and it also makes the fun last longer!
● Try to shop without your child as much as possible. Crowds and waiting in long lines may be difficult for any child. If this is not possible, another option may be shopping more frequently for fewer durations of time or making purchases online and having them delivered.
● Consider opening a few presents at a time. Opening Christmas presents is very exciting to a child. To a special-needs child, the excitement can become overwhelming and over-stimulating. By opening a few presents at a time, the child does not become too overwhelmed and can enjoy their gifts.
● Make sure you are prepared for your children to play with a gift or two right away. Be sure to have batteries, tools and anything else you’ll need to open up boxes and put together toys as soon as the child opens them. This could be very frustrating and cause a possible outburst if a child is excited for a toy but cannot play with it.
● This is the time of year where cookies, candy and other sweets are everywhere. Try to limit these kinds of food for your child. A fun activity might be to bake cookies or other goodies with healthier ingredients. Too many goodies, as we all know, can lead to stomachaches and other health issues.
● Parents: Practice simple relaxation exercises, such as yoga, and try keeping to your own routines. If your child senses stress from you, they may become uneasy.
● Use rehearsal and role play to give children practice ahead of time in dealing with new social situations, or work together to write a “social story” that incorporates all the elements of an upcoming event or visit to better prepare them for that situation. They could also practice unwrapping gifts ahead of time to help them learn and understand the meaning of gifts. These activities will not only be fun, but will help your child overcome anxiety.
● If you need to travel over the holidays, whether it’s by car or plane, be prepared! Make sure you have everything you need and that your child understands the plan. Traveling anytime can be a challenge with children, especially this time of year. Try to have fun travel games prepared and use the above mentioned to practice social situations with your child.
● Get a list of gift ideas for relatives from your child’s teacher and therapists.
● Take pictures when you and your child trim the tree, visit relatives, open gifts, etc. Make a book about your holiday by gluing the pictures onto construction paper, writing a short sentence under each picture, and stapling the pages together. When someone asks your child a question regarding the holidays, your child can use the book as a visual cue to help tell about the things he or she did.
● The holidays are a time to spend with family, friends, the ones we love and to be thankful for all we have in our lives. Enjoy the holiday with your child!
For more information, call (631) 207-1053 or visit therapycenterforchildren.com.