Some years back I had a conversation that went something like the following:
My Friend: “My kids just got their Halloween costumes! We are so excited about going out. What are you kids going to be?”
Me: “We have not got our costumes yet.”
My Friend: “What? They will all be gone soon!”
Me: “Well I did not have a long sleeve shirt on my daughter the last time we went to see if it would work under the costume. So we did not get them.”
My Friend: “You at least got the others their right?”
Me: “No, I did not. She would not understand why she could not get hers and her sisters got theirs.”
My Friend: “Kids understand things like that. She would have been okay.”
But I knew that was not true, and things would have gone bad. I learn that Holidays need to be simple, not perfect.
These conversations like the one above happen just about every year now I know full well that my ideas and what is going to happen are very different. A holiday with a special needs child means being flexible and changing things around. And knowing when to stick to a plan and when to be flexible.
I hear questions and comments like these often:
What? You don’t leave your tree up?
How come you can’t buy it earlier?
What do you mean they won’t eat what I fixed?
You should start decorating before Thanksgiving to get everything up!
You mean you missed that great house on X street for trick or treating? It is the best and most scary!
Keep in mind the holidays between October and January have always been my favorite time of the year. I loved it all. I had fun decorating and changing things up.
Now, it is the time of year I dread the most. I feel that sometimes I’m battling my way through the sensory and ridged patterns that I created and deal with now. But I’ve learned what I can and can’t do to help make it easier.
My Idea Holiday
My first few years with my girls and holidays things were overdone and crazy, but fun for me. What I did not understand was that things were going to change and holidays would not be the same. I had set patterns that I loved to do. Shopping for costumes early, decorating and learning about Thanksgiving, putting the Christmas tree up and decorating the whole house was fun for me.
I loved sharing the holidays with my girls and enjoyed it. I loved changing things around, but it got harder as more problems came around. My ideal and the way I wanted was not going to keep happening. I kept working on my “perfect holiday season.” I wanted it to be just like I remembered having. I pushed and pushed for it.
The Reality of the Holidays
When I look back now, the holidays became stressful because I was trying to do everything without accepting that my child may or may not want what I was trying to do with them. It was a push to try and do my favorite things and not seeing that it upset my child more or that I had to change for what their needs were.
We could not shop for costumes to early because that meant that Halloween was going to be soon or the next day. We also had to avoid certain houses because they upset her and she did not like it.
I can’t force my child to sit at the table during thanksgiving while everyone finishes their meal because it just won’t happen. She will eat and then want to leave. Also, she might not eat what food people have prepared. And no forcing her to eat won’t work.
I wanted the Christmas tree up until the start of the new year. When in reality my daughter thought as long as the tree was up Santa was coming. Even though he had come the night before.
Keep the Holidays Simple
After our first few years of meltdowns and major issues at all the holidays. I decided that things were going to be simpler. I ask these questions now:
What do I need to change for them and everyone else to have fun?
I some ways it was as simple as getting rid of my ornaments that would break for the Christmas Tree or avoiding the houses that would scare my daughter and made trip routes she would understand.
What do we need to do to avoid meltdowns?
That answer might mean I cooked foods my girls would eat at Thanksgiving along with what a few traditional foods my husband and I would like. It also might mean they decorate the Christmas tree over and over and I don’t complain about it.
What can we get rid of to make things simple?
We got rid of things that caused stress for the whole family. We make it clear when we were doing activities by using a calendar of their own. We started countdowns for the different holidays.
I kept things as simple as possible. I did not want to do more work by having to keep to the perfect holiday. A perfect holiday is now when everyone is happy not how many things we did.
Make Your Tradition Just for Yourself
I do miss some of my traditional holiday activities. What I found is that I enjoy them more by doing something for me and making it my time and not everyone’s time. I take one activity that I love and do it myself. I love decorating for Christmas, and now I wrap the pictures on the walls myself to have my little tradition. I watch Christmas movies I want to watch and relax and have my special tradition that is for me.
Here are some fun suggestions for your own traditions:
– Watch your favorite movie with your the husband or by yourself.
– Decorate some part of your room that does not affect your kids.
– Do a traditional mini meal without your kids.
– Write down your favorite past memories of holidays and read over them each year.
– Make your own mini tradition for the season.
Don’t feel that you have to do everything. Figure out what steps for the holidays you can miss and move on. No one holiday is going to be perfect. But it can be a perfect happy by just keeping it simple as possible.
This is the fifth post with 11 other bloggers. You can read everyone’s posts about conquering the holidays. There are so many different ways ideas for the holiday seasons.
- Holidays and PTSD: A Parent’s Guide to Survival by Every Star is Different
- Free Christmas Visual Schedule for Kids by Every Star is Different
- Navigating Trauma Over The Holidays by STEAM Powered Family
- Holiday Myths & Autism by My Home Truths
- Surviving the Holidays with Special Needs by Natural Beach Living
- I Canceled Christmas: Surviving Holidays with an SPD Child by Carrots Are Orange
- Visual Christmas Schedule for Special Needs Kids by Life Over C’s
- Surviving the Holidays With a Child With Anxiety by The Chaos and The Clutter
- Questions Special Needs Parents Face During the Holidays by This Outnumbered Mama
- The Year That I Made Santa Claus Cry by Kori at Home
Here is a look at all the themes for the 12 months:
Check out my posts in this series:
- Ripples on a Pond: Warning Signs of Early Childhood Development Problems
- Navigating The Stream: The Trails of Daily Routine
- Finding Support: From The Wind in Your Life
- Seasons of Sleep for Special Needs Parents
Cassie – 3Dinosaurs.com