What tips would you give to other parents to help them survive over Christmas?
￼I know personally that we have had many difficult experiences in the past in the lead up, and during, the festive period.
Often, the best learning can be done when parents haven’t got it right the first time; but have learnt how to do it differently as a result.
These anonymous pearls of wisdom have come from parenting trials and errors and create a good platform to start from.
There may be other times when all of the preparations have been put in place and yet still our children struggle and shutdown as a result.
That just happens and nobody is to blame.
It can be so challenging but there will be small adjustments that we can make in order to make life more manageable for ourselves, at least for a fraction of the time.
One can hope for a reduction in conflict at Christmas time as a feasible goal.
After all, our families are still with their specific needs, that can’t simply just disappear for one day of the year because it happens to be Christmas and as a society we have placed expectations upon us.
So I’ve created a quick ‘Christmas Survival Guide using tips that I have been given and find useful;’
🌟Be flexible – this one has to go to the top of the list as without this main adjustment our families will inevitably struggle over the festive period🌟
🌟Stagger activities – food, presents, social events, visitors are all demands and we should try to keep things as level as possible🌟
🌟Use the option of giving presents early if required to reduce anxiety. It really is important to remember that the demand of waiting, coupled with the excitement of the Christmas hype, plus the uncertainty of the surprises that lay ahead may all send the child into shutdown. We have to question whether it is essential that the child waits till Christmas to open a gift if it is causing too much upset?🌟
🌟Have your own visual plan but be open to change – adjust your expectations to the tolerance of your child and how they are coping🌟
🌟Include rest days if you have a busy schedule ahead🌟
🌟Think outside of the box! Ideas that have been known to work such as wrapping presents in cellophane (to limit the stress element of ‘surprise’) are possible trigger relievers, but this will depend on what causes the most conflict for your child🌟
🌟Ensure preparations are made to help the day run smoother. It’s a good idea to put batteries in toys or build them in advance (if waiting is difficult for the child) and to also think of doing as much prior to the big day e.g. preparations for Christmas dinner etc to relieve as much stress as possible🌟
🌟Keep routines where possible e.g. food, sleep, daily structures – try to retain some sense of ‘normality’ over the period so that the changes that need to happen are limited and therefore have more chance of success🌟
🌟What are the triggers? Suggestions like making your own crackers if the child cannot cope with unknown items, so instead they can be filled with what the child likes was one example of adjusting the uncertainty of demands that will be placed upon the child🌟
🌟Brief families in advance – and stay true to your family strategies that work for you, try to not worry when family members expect you to do it differently. We need to have confidence in our own ability to know what works well for our kids🌟
🌟If it is an issue, have Christmas at your own home so that visitors can follow the rules you put in place🌟
🌟Don’t impose our own expectations onto our children. Consider our children’s version of happiness are not the same as ours and we should not try to enforce them to enjoy what we think they ‘should’ be enjoying🌟
🌟Limit social media time or choose carefully what you look at – try to remember that it’s only a ‘screenshot’ of what life might look like and not reality itself. It does not show the bad moments or even the many photographs taken previously to reach that ‘perfect’ shot🌟
🌟Take comfort in distractions – if our children were at school we would expect that they take comfort breaks or have playtime to unwind and we certainly would not be expecting a child with additional needs to cope with the level of surprises, demands or social experiences that we put upon them over the Christmas period🌟
🌟Exercise or try to get some fresh air if you can! This may not always be possible if you are alone and if it is difficult/unsafe to leave the house but any form of excercise you can do inside the house even may well help alleviate the feeling of being cooped up🌟
🌟Avoid queues if going out and try to book in advance for any festive activities🌟
🌟Separating as a family is not a bad thing! It’s ok if one part of the family does one thing and others do something else – the expectation that all members will be doing the same activity is often ambitious. Sometimes we fear separating because we feel the need to all be enjoying the same thing when in reality this doesn’t always happen🌟
🌟Manage expectations when things don’t go to plan – try to use empathetic communication and understand the child’s point of view (regardless if this is something you agree with). Often their emotions are more heightened with so much going on and our role is to help bring calm and order once again🌟
🌟Offer options rather than imposing more demands and de-personalise where the ‘no’ comes from (especially useful when discussing a present that may not be feasible but is something the child with additional needs is fixated upon)🌟
🌟Don’t take things personally when responses aren’t what you expect e.g a reaction towards a present – as these feelings often can’t be helped. It may also be difficult to consolidate the child when the present they wanted doesn’t arrive, but we have to try to take our own emotions out of the equasion – this is easier said than done!🌟
🌟Try to remember the adjustments you make all year round for your family with additional needs which are there for a reason. Try to prepare and expect that overloads may happen during this period and that it’s more about how you pick things up to continue on and that they shouldn’t determine whether Christmas is enjoyable or not. We need to focus on the special moments rather than expecting everything to be perfect🌟
🌟Most importantly be kind to yourself🌟
🌟It’s ok to have your own version of a ‘special’ Christmas – there is no such thing as a perfect Christmas so find what works for you and your own unique family🌟
🌟Reward yourself for getting through it – whether this be a treat to look forward to or simply a deep breath in as you relish your success. Remember this is no easy feat and to survive this period, with our own family dynamics and needs, is an accomplishment in itself🌟
So, do you have any tips you would share with other parents?
What has worked well for you over the Christmas period and what have you found didn’t work in the past?
For a link to the most unusual present my daughter ever asked for (and how we managaged the situation), click here.