Christmas is a lovely time of year but it can all get a bit much for some people, especially kids on the spectrum. Changes to normal routine can be unsettling, visitors present a social challenge and all the lights, colours and the constant Christmas music can leave them constantly one step from sensory overload. New experiences like theatre trips, unfamiliar foods or ice skating also pose challenges. Click here to read my post on coping with new experiences.
Christmas is a fact of life and can’t be avoided so how can you help make it an enjoyable rather than a stressful and overwhelming experience?
Talk through changes in routine
Give plenty of warning about visitors, trips, parties, non-uniform days and Xmas performances, etc. A calendar/ diary to keep track of what is coming is useful or a visual timetable. We don’t use our visual timetable much now but it still comes out for times like Christmas when everything is up in the air. Talk through each thing and explain what it is/ what will happen. Get school on board with this too, when normal lesson timetables go out of the window in December.
Keep Christmas Out of Bedrooms
Having a calm, normal space to retreat to is really important. Let your child know that if everything gets too much, they can take a break and go and chill out in their room for a bit.
Find Christmas activities that you can do together as a family that you will all enjoy.
Maybe putting your Santa hats & singing Christmas songs on a welly stomp through the woods is more achievable than a Carol Service. Bookable time slots for Breakfast with Santa may be a lot less stressful than queuing for a busy shopping centre grotto. Try a living room disco if a Xmas party is too overwhelming. Maybe record a video Christmas message to send instead of writing Cards. If assembling and decorating a gingerbread house takes too long for a short attention span, decorate gingerbread men instead. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the (Christmas) box and make up your own family Christmas traditions that work for you.
All the changes, and new experiences can result in a lot of anxiety. Click here to read how setting up a Worry Box can help with anxiety or use a Worry monster/ Worry bear. Be aware of anxiety as a possible root cause of meltdowns and talk through worries with your child.
Deep Pressure & Other Calming Strategies
Get your calming strategies ready to soothe frayed nerves. We take a little grab bag with my son’s pressure vest, chewy bangle and ear plugs to festive events so they are handy if he needs them. Sometimes they stay in the bag, other times they are very much needed.
Click here to read how a deep pressure vest has helped us. Weighted blankets, bear hugs and massage can also be calming.
Listen and Accomodate
Let your child know they can always talk to you about what is worrying them, and ask as many questions as they need to. Find ways they can join in with Christmas activities and enjoy them. If they need to wear ear defenders to enjoy the Christmas party then roll with it. If they would rather be in charge of the music and press the buttons on the music system than join in with party games, that’s fine. Most importantly, respect their wishes if they really don’t want to go to a Xmas party or the pantomime, especially older children who know what they can cope with. Christmas should be enjoyable for everyone so pick treats that will be enjoyed.
Merry Christmas all x