A lot of parents have stressed how stressful and difficult it can be to prepare for Christmas, particularly for an autistic child. It’s not that they don’t understand what the holidays are about. They do, but they don’t want their children worrying about them during the season. One way to help children with autism cope with Christmas is to keep them busy in the run-up to Christmas. Parents need to start preparing early so that they can get a head start on holiday stress. Here are some Christmas survival tips for autistic children:
Thanksgiving Social Story Time: Have your child’s school organised for him or her to tell a special Christmas story at school during the week before Thanksgiving. It can be as simple as telling a brief story or it can involve a lot of planning and input from the teacher. If you know that your child has difficulty socializing and making connections in the way that typical children do, try planning a specialised Thanksgiving social story where he or she can have a say in what is included and what is left out. This can be a really rewarding experience for both you and your child and can help both of you to cope with the extra attention brought by the holidays. If you have access to a video recorder you can record this part of the Thanksgiving social story and watch it back later. This can also be a good opportunity to teach your child how important it is to make friends and how you can encourage your child to seek out these friends.
Take the Children Out: For many families the stress of the holidays can take a toll on the children especially those with an autistic child. Some children get too involved in the preparation and shopping and ignore or refuse to go outdoors. This can lead to a significant amount of stress and anxiety. For these families you should take the children out of the house at least twice before Christmas to avoid feelings of overwhelm. Additionally, look for a babysitter who is knowledgeable about the rituals that will need to be done for the holidays.
Start Early: One of the most difficult things for people when it comes to the holidays is surviving the stresses associated with them. This is especially true if you are a caregiver for a young child with special needs. It is important to start early and to not put off getting help when it is needed. A large number of young people, particularly those with Autism, find it difficult to navigate the treacherous waters associated with the holidays and often find themselves alone and overwhelmed.
Put Baby on Chair: A great tip for those without a son, or a daughter, is to make Santa Claus cry. You don’t need a lot of explanation; just put the baby on a chair in the living room and have some fun time watching him or her suffer. Sometimes this works best when the child is not very young, and older children may get bored. It may even be fun to have the baby wear a stocking so they can pretend to be lost and searching for Santa Claus. You can also have the baby act out the famous “made up Santa’s hat” scene from earlier.
Do Not Become Exhausting: A very popular tip for those without children is to do not become too exhausting when it comes to the holidays. A good rule of thumb is to leave a small amount of toys and food in your child’s room at home. This will allow your child to have a chance to relax and catch their breath before getting into more difficult tasks. It is also important not to overdo it when it comes to the holidays. There will be plenty of games and stories and a big part of the experience is finding new ways to entertain yourself.
Try to stick to these simple tips of what not to do. If you are dealing with a special needs child, you will find that these tips will be especially important to follow. Many children with special needs do not perform well at family gatherings or in the classroom. But if you can focus on being positive and making new friends during the holiday season, your child will have the best possible chance at surviving and enjoying the holidays.
A word of warning about some of the things that kids do that can heighten anxiety. Playing “Famous Five” or other board games that use familiar figures and themes, watching silly TV shows or playing video games with an adult are just some of the things that can heighten stress and make it harder to enjoy the holidays. You should also avoid any dangerous games and activities as well. As an added extra, do not forget that most kids really do love to eat and drink while waiting for the holidays to come. So instead of stressing over whether or not your child will be able to resist eating a piece of cake or drinking a glass of red wine, let them play instead!