parenting

Tackling the Holidays With a Special Needs Child

parentingages and stages

The holidays are almost here and while the fun, excitement and noise are what most kids love, they can be the hardest part for a child with special needs. Your holiday visions might need to change a bit to meet the needs of your special kiddo and that's okay. Changing the way you celebrate to accommodate what your child needs will make the holidays more enjoyable for everyone.

Surviving the holidays with a special needs child

If you have a special needs child there are a lot of small things you can do as the holidays near that add up to big rewards for a happy, and maybe even peaceful, holiday season. Tuck away the expectations of friends and family and try changing a few things to maintain the calm in your own house.

1. Assess the problem points- What is it about the holidays that is hardest for your special needs child? Is it the late bedtimes? The change in their daily routine? Too much noise at family dinners? Take a good look at how you celebrate and what the triggers might be.

2. Commit to making changes- Worrying about the expectations of friends and family members can be the hardest part. Your mother-in-law's vision of Christmas might be a huge family meal that causes your child to meltdown for hours. It's tough to push away the judgement of others but remind yourself that any changes you make are because you are putting your special needs child first.

3. Educate others- It might be easier for friends and family to understand any changes you make if they know why. Depending on your child's special needs, you can find informational sheets from your local disability council. Another, more personal way to inform loved ones is by writing a nice letter, explaining what your child needs and why (ex. Tommy may need to sit in a quiet place to eat, he loves his family but sitting at a large table with a lot of people is overwhelming for him.)

How to help a special needs child through the holidays

4. Be ready for questions- Once you start making changes you will, no doubt, be faced with questions and suggestions from others who feel they can help. It's hard not to waver but answer questions by educating people rather than getting emotional. The more they understand the easier it will be for them to handle your choices.

5. Get rid of the guilt- If you decide to forego family gatherings for peace in your own house remind yourself why you're doing it. Putting your child first is always the best choice. Having a special needs child will always require flexibility and you are being a great parent by recognizing that.

Do you have a special needs child? What changes have you made to your holiday routine to maintain sanity?

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Jessica Watson is the mom to five, four in her arms and one in her heart. When she's not doing the minivan shuffle she's homeschooling her kiddos and cooking things they won't eat. She blogs with her heart on her sleeve at Four Plus an Angel, co-directs Listen To Your Mother Metro Detroit and writes for sites such as Huffington Post, Mamalode and SheKnows.

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