The Holiday Season is now in full swing and I’m sure everyone is feeling it.
I know as a parent, even for us we can feel overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, and tired during this time of year. There are many high expectations surrounding us and it can feel like we are just overloaded with things to do.
However, for a child with autism, they can feed off of this energy and even feel their routine getting switched up, feeling rushed, overstimulated with all of the noise, new faces, and smells surrounding this time of year.
It’s completely normal to feel this way, but how can we eliminate the over stimulatory meltdowns?
Here are some of my favorite ways to help a child cope with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season:
The 12 Days of Christmas
When Kaedyn was nonverbal, he had a really hard time understanding the idea of opening multiple presents. He would open one, want to play with it, then get frustrated when I’d try to redirect him to open the next present. Eventually, I staggered his gifts out. Each day, I gave him one gift to open (which I then named the 12 days of christmas). This approach was much more manageable for him, and he enjoyed opening his presents when he had time to play with each one.
Map out the day for your child
If your child is nonverbal, creating visuals to explain what’s happening next allows for the child to better understand the schedule switch up and getting prepared for something different that is not a part of their normal routine. You can do this by simply printing out images online, laminating them, and sticking them to a schedule board.
Let friends and family in on the fun!
Explain the staggered gift approach to family. No doubt, you’ll have family that wants to shower your child with gifts. This is awesome, but it can be overwhelming if your child gets overstimulated easily. Explain your approach if only giving one gift at a time and explain that it might not be possible to have your child open gifts in front of everyone. They may want a quiet space to open and explore their gifts. They can wait to give their gift at a different time or come over for a separate visit to celebrate with your child. After all, this time of year isn’t about the gifts, it’s about simply spending time with one another.
Offer to host or be the hub for an event.
It might be a lot to actually host Christmas with family, but ask if the gathering could happen at your house or plan a different day to celebrate all together. You could kindly ask family members to bring food, help with setup, and/or even cleanup. Having your child remain at home may help them thrive in the party setting. He will have his own room to go to if he needs quiet, he knows the layout and he’s on his home turf. This has been a huge help in regards to parties for us. The support of friends and family make this an ideal setup.
Ask for experiences or memberships for you child vs toys.
I’m sure you will get asked what your child wants for the holidays, but instead of asking for toys you could ask for a session of swim lessons, social events for children on the spectrum, or maybe a year membership to the zoo or museum. These are gifts that benefit your cild and help you as well, because they give you the gift of experiences to have with your child. It’s honestly like a gift that keeps giving!
If you have friends or family who want to give a gift of help, tools, or resources for your child. I highly recommend Angel Sense GPS, which is a wearable tracking device to allow you to listen in, call into, and track your child when they are at school, with another caregiver, or if you’re worried they are going to elope. Use my affiliate link to get a discount!
Try to remember that your child feels your energy and thrives off of it.
If you start to feel like you are overwhelmed, take deep breaths and remember that you set the tone for your child.
The stress around the holidays isn’t always worth it, especially if you feel like you have to continuously deal with the stress and overstimulation.
Be sure to communicate this with your child even if they aren’t verbal and validate their feelings while demonstrating how to manage this time of year.