It’s Holiday Time – December 2019
It’s Holiday Time … Be Prepared to Support Your Child.
The excitement of holiday time is upon us, and whether you celebrate Chanukah, Christmas, or Kwanza, there will be some difficult moments ahead. Often holidays just don’t turn out to be the perfect ones we see on holiday cards or in movies. It’s best to prepare ahead and not be discouraged if things don’t go as smoothly as you had hoped. Here are my thoughts about this special time of year and how it might stress children with learning challenges.
• Many children suffer from anxiety and holiday time may increase their anxious feelings. They may feel the impact of sound, taste, touch, smell, and/or sight more intensely than others and holidays are certainly filled with these. Celebrations, holiday displays, new foods, and different experiences can be overwhelming. Take time to introduce your child to any new experiences that will happen over the holidays and find ways to limit the time a child will be expected to be a part of them. Especially if they share reservations about them.
• If lots of company will be at your home, plan with your children about where they might retreat for a while to regain their composure or just take a break.
• If you’re visiting Grandma or some family friends, call ahead to agree on a spot where your children can relax for a while if being social becomes too much for them. Bring along something your children like to do, but warn them that they may have to share.
• If there will be new people or children at a gathering you will be attending, let your children know and practice some scripts they might use to connect with new people.
• If you are planning a gathering at your home, give your children some specific jobs they can do to prepare for the event. Can they help you carry in groceries, set the table, or plan games that visiting children might enjoy? Can they greet guests and take their coats? Having a real job can take the focus off anxious feelings and build self-esteem.
• Talk to your children about holiday gifts and help them understand that everything on their holiday list will not be given to them. Tell them that “in our family, we don’t get everything we see in a store that we may want … not even Mom and Dad do.” Help them to prioritize and to understand how advertisements on television try to make them think they must have something, but that it may not be all that it seems to be. Plan some special holiday family events that may be even more special. Seeing the holiday windows in New York, attending a holiday show, or going ice skating is also a gift if we take time to explain that every gift does not come in a package.
• If your children make strides in playing with a cousin, talking with a relative they don’t often see, or sharing a new toy, be sure to acknowledge their accomplishment. This will dramatically increase the chance that it will happen again in the future.
Most important, enjoy your children during this holiday season. The memories of how they felt during this special time of year will stay with them far longer than what they got in the way of presents.
Warmest Holiday Wishes,