Christmas. The most wonderful time of year. Unless it isn’t. Which is often the case for special needs families. So guest blogger Sheri Dacon is here with her tried and true list of 7 holiday survival tips for special needs families.
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year:
7 Holiday Survival Tips for Special Needs Families
It’s called the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be the most stressful. As special needs parents, we often feel like wounded warriors as we limp our way into January.
Here are seven holiday survival tips for special needs families to get you through the season with minimal wear and tear.
1. Take care of yourself.
It bears repeating: put your own oxygen mask on first. Take the necessary steps to keep yourself healthy and as stress-free as possible. When you’re stressed and exhausted, you’re putting your family at risk for a chaotic and overwhelming holiday. It’s vital to tend to your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Sleep, diet, exercise and spiritual fulfillment are crucial all year round, but especially during the Christmas season, when tensions run high. Make self-care your #1 priority during the holidays.
2. Keep it simple.
There is no such thing as a perfect holiday. Our media-saturated world somehow convinces us that we can craft, bake, or buy our way to the best Christmas ever. It’s simply not true. Avoid Pinterest and keep your decorations, gifts, and food preparation simple.
3. Emphasize the true meaning of the holidays.
Our kids — especially those with special needs — tend to obsess over the material aspect of the holidays. They associate Christmas with presents, and can become overly agitated if they don’t get what’s expected. Talk to them about expectations during times when they are calm. Gently remind them of the true meaning of Christmas. Spend quiet family times reading special books or telling stories. Consider having family devotionals that point to the true reason for the season.
4. Stick to a regular routine.
It’s important for the whole family, but especially for special needs kids: keep your schedule as close to normal as you can. Even though kids are out of school, insist on a regular bedtime and limit screen time. Have the family continue with everyday chores. Adhering to a routine helps lessen the stress of the holidays, and it will help your special needs child (and you) feel more grounded when tinsel and wrapping paper are everywhere.
5. Plan for down time.
With parties and festivities galore, the holidays can be overwhelming. Plan ahead for quiet family evenings at home. Too many social outings can be challenging for special needs kids, who need time and space at home to decompress and recharge.
6. Do what’s best for your family.
Put your family first when it comes to holiday planning. It may seem selfish, but it’s actually healthy. It’s crucial to consider your family’s unique challenges when planning celebrations. You may end up disappointing friends or family members, but it is okay. If you need to stay home or come late to a celebration in order to accommodate your family’s special needs, make that decision and stick to it.
7. Don’t be afraid to say no.
You don’t have to do everything. It’s okay to say no to baking cookies, caroling, or buying a white elephant gift this year. If an activity or event is too much for your child (or you), or if it causes undue stress, politely say no and move on.
The Christmas season truly can be a wonderful time, but it requires planning. Be pro-active and decide now to implement these strategies so your season will be one of peace, not chaos. And from my special needs family to yours, Merry Christmas!
How Do You Survive the Holidays?
Do you have tried and true holiday survival tips? Leave them in the comment box.
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