It seems most people’s stress levels get a little elevated during the holiday season. The mental to do list, the constant promotions of do this or do that, the pressure we put on ourselves to do everything within a short amount of time or else we feel it is our fault the holiday season was not absolutely magical. Add in a family member who has sensitivities to various stimuli and it can feel like we are often failing at this holiday gig. Let’s take a step back, take a bit of the pressure off and focus on what is truly important to us, our families and our children. Chances are, when we let go of the unrealistic expectations of what the holidays “Should” look like, all will enjoy them a bit more.
*The following list is adapted from The Mighty and The Child Mind Institute and is meant to be a guide to help navigate the holidays and make them a little less stressful.
1. Plan Ahead and Be Open to Change
Discuss with your children plans for the holidays and outings, whether that be through spoken word, social stories, visual schedule…whatever works for your child. Plan as best you can for any supports you might need at an event (headphones, sensory toys, weighted lap buddies, etc).
2. Be Realistic
Knowing your child’s (and your) limits and factoring them into plans will help everyone have a more enjoyable time. Have an exit plan and/or “escape room” that the whole family knows about for if those limits are reached sooner than planned for. The escape room should be a place in the house you are visiting that is a safe place to decompress and take a break from all the stimuli.
3. Set Boundaries
Choose which gatherings are important to attend and which ones you can skip. Just because other families are constantly on the go does not mean we have to be as well. Is meeting Santa overwhelming with lines and people? Skip it. Is being at a relatives house stressful? Communicate your needs and if they are unwilling to support those, kindly decline the invite or maybe suggest a small gathering at your house. Do the things your family enjoys and let go of the rest.
4.Take Time for Yourself
Part of saying “no” to things allows you to focus on what matters to your family and allows time for self-care. Take a walk alone, listen to a book/podcast, journal, meditate, BREATHE, create something, lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling in silence…Brainstorm with your family how each person can find some individual favorites for finding their quiet center and then make and post the lists, as well as commit to helping one another have that time.
5. Make Sure to Laugh!
We get a little high strung with all the demands of the holidays. Rather than get caught up in how things “should” look, try to take a moment to appreciate how things are. “Kids pick up their parents’ stress and tension, so they’re more likely to be irritable if you are. Have a sense of humor, enjoy your kids for who they are, and keep in mind that what you’ll all remember when it’s over is likely to be the unexpected moment when everybody was relaxed, not the brilliantly choreographed party, dinner, or outing,” says the Child Mind institute.
From all of us at PEAK Parent Center, to all of you, we hope you have an enjoyable holiday season. Know you are not alone!