I have a special gift for you…make sure you read all the way to the end!
I saw a post recently about someone’s insane excitement that holiday season was imminent. I wish I could show you all the way my face contorted as I read their post. It was complete with eye roll and huffing. All I could think about was the crazy stress that was about to commence for the next 2 months. Meltdowns, tears, yelling and, well, then there’s my child with disabilities…
I hope you read this post and have no idea what I’m talking about because I want all of you to have a pleasurable holiday experience. However, if you have a child with disabilities, I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume you know exactly what I’m talking about.
From about October 30-January 2, the stress level in my house is through the roof. It seems like there’s a celebration, food to be cooked, a house to be cleaned or some other work to be done every single day.
On one hand, I’m grateful that people care enough about us to invite us to their homes and events. Truly, where would I be without people who love and care about us. On the other hand, this is the hardest time of the entire year for my child.
Loud parties, music, lights, unfamiliar people and place, so much stimulation and so many expectations. For some of our children, this is, quite literally, a living nightmare.
I wanted this post to be one that you could share with family and friends to help them understand.
Share these tips and tips of your own with your family and friends. Most people want to make this time easier and more enjoyable. But, they can’t do what they don’t know.
So many of us parents with special needs want to prove our herculean strength. Our desire to fit in prohibits us from asking for what we need. Don’t do that. It’s not fair to you or your child. So, share this post with your family and friends. The next section is just for them.
What can you do to make the holidays easier? If you are hosting an event or party, please keep these things in mind.
- Have a quiet space. There’s a lot of noise, laughter and talking at holiday events. Creating a small corner where a child can escape the stimulation is helpful. It could be a comfy chair, beanbag chair, pillow, or even a blanket fort in the corner. A spare bedroom or an unused office is a great place where a child can “get away” from everything happening in the rest of the house. Some ideas for the room include playing quiet music or white noise and diffusing lavender. Have a comfortable place for the child to plop down and just relax.
- Have internet available. It may sound obvious, however many children with disabilities enjoy using technology. So, ensure you have your wifi info at the ready so parents can log into their tablets or phones.
- Have or welcome the child’s favorite foods at the party. Having a fancy shindig? Maybe include some of the child’s favorite foods available.
- Declutter. If there are fragile items or limited space to move, it can be difficult for many children to navigate their surrounding. Perhaps create a clear path for walking, running or moving.
- Help other guests to prepare. Explain to other guests ahead of time that there will be a guest who may need additional support. Explain that they can help him/her feel more comfortable by being kind. Ask them not to be offended if the child doesn’t respond. Explain that questions are welcome, but staring is not. Lead by example and welcome the child but allow him/her to do what they need to do. Explain the areas of the house that may be for quiet space. “Look at the great fort we built for anyone who wants to get away from all of the noise.” “This is our spare room and we’ve set it up to be a quiet spot if anyone needs to get away from the noise.”
- Schedule. Let your guests know how the day or evening will progress. Many children with disabilities do better, especially in uncomfortable situations, when they know what to expect.
- Be patient and understanding. Accept that the family may not be able to stay for your entire celebration. Show gratitude that they tried. This isn’t easy.
- Talk to the parent and ask them how to make the day easier. Parents know their children and there may be some simple things you can do to help make the day smoother and more enjoyable for everyone.
I’ve experienced 20 years of holidays with varying degrees of success. My best parties were the ones I hosted. However, that isn’t always possible. If I could do things over, I’d attend every event with my child. Every…single…one. I didn’t do that and now, at 20, my son hates events. It would have been a lot easier to deal with meltdowns for a 4 year old, 7 year old or even a 10 year old than a 20 year old.
Last week, I was invited to my uncle’s surprise 80th birthday party. I had arranged for his dad to take him that night so I could attend. I thought hard about this. I decided in the end to take my son to the party. It was hard. He hated every second of it. But…we did it. I am now paying for the fact that I took the easy way out when he was younger. If I could give young parents a piece of advice about this season, I’d tell them to go to every event. Even if it is hard. Do the hard thing now…your future self and your child will thank you.
Here’s to a lovely holiday season! It’s coming….be prepared.
P.S. I promised you a special gift. Click here to download a resource to help make the next holiday, the best holiday. Share this image with family and friends to help make this the smoothest season yet.
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Disclaimer: There are exceptions to every rule. Children and adults with disabilities are people with their own individual needs and desires. The ideas and advice given in this blog are for your consideration only and should not be taken as legal, medical or educational advice, as every single situation is different.