Five Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress for Children with Special Needs

1. Zap Stress Before it Zaps You

A stressed out parent creates stress in a child, so keep your child calm by not taking on more than you can manage. Spread out holiday chores and social commitments, and schedule quiet periods to give you and your child time to decompress. Also, designate a special quiet space where your child can go to get away from it all. When traveling, bring along activities your child enjoys so he or she can retreat from the world and stay entertained.

2. Give Gift Giving Guidelines (Try to say it 5 times fast!!!)

Help your child understand more about gift giving by letting him or her participate in the tradition. Remind friends and relatives to go easy on the gift giving. Others may not understand that even something fun like receiving presents can be stressful for some children. Getting too many new items at once can be overwhelming. Also, tell friends and relatives to go light on the tape! Hard to open presents can cause undue stress.

3. Plan Ahead and Share the Plan

Make a calendar of events for the month with large blocks for each day. Schedule special alone time for you and your child and note other activities. Include pictures of upcoming events; managing emotions is easier for your child if he or she is prepared ahead of time for upcoming events (and if you manage yours!)

4. Give Your Child Responsibilities

At holiday gatherings, delegate certain responsibilities to your child. He or she can be in charge of taking coats, putting presents under the tree or keeping snack bowls full. At a party, activities for children with special needs that allow them to fulfill a designated role, gives them a sense of control.

5. Give Yourself a Break

Unless you wear a cape and tights under your everyday clothes, you probably need help from time to time. Don’t be ashamed to ask for assistance when you need it. Don’t try to do it all yourself!

For most people, the winter holiday season conjures up images of bright lights, crowds, noise, and mad rushes to get shopping done before stores are left with empty racks. While it can be a fun and magical time, the holidays can also be stressful for adults, even though many children seem to thrive on all of the chaos. Children with autism and other special needs, however, can often find the disruptions to their routine to be overwhelming. Use the above precautions to ensure that, the holidays produce smiles instead of meltdowns. Don’t forget that you need to relax and enjoy the festivities too!

From all of us at the James Stanfield Company, wishing you a happy holiday and a healthy new year!

©2012 James Stanfield Company. All Rights Reserved.


Categories: Conflict & Anger Management , Developmental Disabilities , Special Education
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