Keeping The Holidays Stress-Free

Dear Gail, 

What can I do as a parent to keep the holidays stress-free?

-Eric- 

 

Dear Eric,

The holidays, no matter what the commercials say, are not always a happy time of year for many and can be a prime time for stress and disappointments. There are strong factors that come into play with increased expectations and fantasies of what the holidays are supposed to be about. This is where reality smashes into fantasy as we compare ourselves to a movie or TV version of family life.  Special needs kids and their parents and guardians need special treatment before, during and after the holidays.

Keep in mind that holidays do not need to be perfect, and that it should just be” good enough.” The goal is to get through the holidays with a minimum of trauma and stress.

  1. Try not to get into a financial bind as there are so many pressures to buy the perfect gift. Gifts do not equal love. Do not bribe your child to be “good” as this quickly disintegrates.
  2. Remain calm and low key. You know what your child needs, not Grandma or Aunt Susan. Families are notorious for giving advice or be disapproving of you or your child, but this is your responsibility. Accept your child for who he is even if others do not.
  3. This is a holiday season, not just one day, and activities ideally should be spread out. Do NOT overbook and make the holidays a marathon. You and your family need down time to de-stress between events.
  4. Do something for others who are less fortunate than you are. There is always someone who has less, whether it be financially, emotionally or socially.
  5. Clothes do not make the child. It does not matter what your child wears. Pick your battles.
  6. At family gatherings, come prepared with what your child needs to entertain him/herself. You need to be the one to monitor your child’s activities at family gatherings. If you have a teenager, monitor that he or she is not abusing any substances.
  7. Do not nag your kid to eat or not eat at a party. This will not be his only meal.
  8. Make an escape plan and use it when you see your child starting to deteriorate. Remain calm, take deep breaths, find your coats and politely leave quickly.
  9. Do not forget to do something for yourself, even if you only can go for a cup of coffee or take a walk outside. It is the small kindnesses we do for ourselves and others that get us through the day. Take joy in the little things.

-Gail-