The Holidays are full of family, friends, joy and cheer, a joyful time for everyone. If you are the parent of a child with special needs, the holidays can also be a time when your stress level is at an all time high. We all know that “special needs children” tend to do better when they follow an established routine. During the holidays, routines seem to get thrown out the window. School is not in session, family and friends want to see you and either visit in your home or expect you to travel to theirs, and your children are overloaded with excitement about presents. The following tips might not eliminate your worries, but they will help you navigate the Holidays with a manageable stress level.
Tips for Navigating the Holidays
- Plan Ahead. Take the time to sit down with your partner or another family member and make some plans about your Holiday events. Talk about the challenges associated with each event; is travel involved, do the people involved know about your child’s needs, will the gathering be small and quiet or crowded and noisy.
- Prepare your child for what to expect. This is a change in routine and that alone is enough to have your child react with his/her least desired behavior. Talk with your child about where you are going and who will be there. Create a visual story about the event. Pull out your photo albums and introduce your child to relatives he/she may not have met before. If you have pictures of your child participating in family gatherings in the past, make a scrapbook just for your child. A fond memory of a past gathering will reduce fears about future gatherings
- Plan ahead for quiet time. You and your child will need some down time as you prepare for company or traveling to relatives, build in time for just sitting down and relaxing. Designate a particular area or room at the holiday event as a quiet area. Schedule a short walk to clear your head. Work with your partner, a close friend or family member so you can take time “off duty”.
- Prepare your Friends and Family. Let your family know in advance what to expect. Ask for help where needed.
- Consider Dietary Challenges. If your child has dietary restrictions, plan ahead. Talk to your hostess and offer to bring a dish or two that you know your child can eat in a portion size that all can share. Make sure you have backup foods in the trunk for emergency situations. If your child needs between meal snacks, make sure you have packed them.
- Give Your Child a Job. Most special needs children do better when they have an assigned task. Some ideas include; hanging up coats, helping in the kitchen, taking pictures, handing out presents.
- Involve your child in Gift Giving. This is an excellent time to work on social skills. Your child needs the opportunity to think of the needs and desires of other people. Help him/her select or make gifts for the persons on your list.
- Prepare an activity bag. Your child will do better if they are occupied. If you are traveling, an activity bag may get you though some otherwise chaotic event. Fill a backpack with; favorite toys, a stuffed animal, CD or DVD player, coloring book and crayons. Load your I-phone with a game your child might enjoy.
- Prepare Easy to Open Gifts. If your child lacks finger dexterity, prepare easy to open gifts or use gift bags rather than wrapped presents. If this is an issue for your child, sharing this tip with relatives may help avoid an awkward moment.
- Reserve medical equipment. If you are traveling over the holidays and your child needs specialized medical equipment, make plans for this several weeks in advance. Plan whether that equipment travels with you or is needed once you reach your destination. Your team at RSVP Home Care can help you with a travel plan.
Whatever your plans for the Holidays, your care team at RSVP Home Care is here to support you. With years of experience under our belts, we can offer suggestions and additional tips for navigating social outings and travel plans. Whether it is a change in your normal respiratory therapy treatment schedule or medical equipment for traveling, we are here to help. RSVP Home Care provides respiratory therapy and durable medical equipment support in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.