Managing the Holiday Season
Written by Dr. John Carosso
The Christmas and New Years Holiday is magical and fun; a wonderful time of year that spreads warm feelings and cheer in families and communities throughout the world. The celebration is well deserved, and we all tend to look forward to this very special time of year.
Yeah, there is a ‘but’ for many parents with kiddo’s struggling with any number of behavioral health or developmental issues such as ADHD and autism. In those homes, the hectic and often-times over-stimulating nature of this holiday season can bring about all sorts of behaviors, meltdowns, over-activity, and fixations.
Father (and mother) knows best
First, remember that you know your child best. Given the frequent changes in routine during the holiday season, you know whether your child fixates on the routine and if it’s best to not convey the daily schedule till the last minute, or if your child thrives on knowing the routine in advance and finds the information to be comforting. You also know whether it’s best to do all the decorations quickly, all at once, to get it over with; or if your child responds better to a slow and steady approach.
You’ve also shopped enough with your child to know the best approach. The challenge during the Season is that these shopping trips are usually a bit longer, so it’s even more important to take breaks, have fun items to keep your kiddo’s busy, and work your way into each store maybe a bit slower than usual. Some kiddo’s respond well to headphones and darker tinted glasses. However, an added challenge is the necessity of masks, which some kids find intolerable. In that case, you’d likely have to avoid taking your child to the respective store unless you can convince your kiddo to wear a visor. Also, for younger children, some stores may forego the mask mandate.
Keeping the schedule
During the holidays, the daily routine that you’ve worked so hard to maintain usually becomes more unpredictable, but do your best to keep some semblance of routine and order. Social stories, written schedules, and visual schedules, and reminders can be very helpful.
Gifts and Toys
It can be helpful to wait until the last minute to arrange the gifts, given the temptation your child may face to open ahead of time. However, again, you know your child best and some find it very enticing and pleasant to see the presents, and would not dare open any until the designated time. Also, with that in mind, turn-taking to open presents can be coordinated by passing an ornament to whose turn it may be to open a present. Also, offering a quiet, out-of-the-way place for your kiddo to play with his new toys may also be helpful to avoid grabbing at other’s toys, becoming overly upset if somebody touches his toys, and causing disruption.
Some Other Tips
If your child has food sensitivities or is very finicky, you may want to bring some food along to Aunt Jennie’s house for the celebration. Also, before arriving, it may also help to show your kiddo pictures of who will be there, and what to expect every step of the way. Sometimes children respond better if they gradually mix-in with the crowd as opposed to all at once; and provide a ‘safe-haven’ if it becomes too overwhelming. You’re the best judge of how much your child can tolerate, so you’ll be keeping a watchful-eye, and intervening when necessary. Also, regarding the family, prepare them for what to expect from your kiddo and how they can help the situation rather than make it worse.
Don’t Miss the Season
These were just a few tips to consider during this Christmas season. Most importantly; enjoy this time with your children, family, and friends. Relish these opportunities, no matter how chaotic or stressful they may become at times. In years ahead, you’ll look back and miss these days. Don’t miss them now. God bless you and your family during this blessed Christmas Season.
Dr. John Carosso
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