Is It Really “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?”
Eric and I took our girls to see the “holiday spectacular” at the Comcast Center here in Philadelphia. It’s a really neat film that they project onto an enormous LED screen. The 15-minute show ends with a sing-a-long of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”. As we were walking away, Eric turned to me and asked, “Is it”? For many families, the holidays are not easy. In fact, they are the most STRESSFUL times of the year! Holidays can sometimes mean arguments with family members who are impatient or “stuck” in traditions that don’t work for every person in the family. It can mean sitting and waiting in airports or train stations and experiencing what even the most patient and “zen” person finds unbearable – changes in plans and being out of control. Sitting at long meals where conversations may be boring to some or insulting to others. Many of us experience these struggles but for families that include individuals on the Autism Spectrum or who struggle socially or who have NLD, these are even more difficult.
While we hope your holidays are filled with lots of yummy food, quiet and relaxing time with family and friends and reflection of the many gifts in your life, we know that may not always be possible. Here are some suggestions for how to increase the likelihood that everyone is set up for more success:
• Preview any schedule changes in advance (at least a few days) and give the members of your family a printed schedule/itinerary….with the warning that sometimes things like traffic or weather force us to change plans.
• Try to stick to your normal routine as much as possible leading up to the holiday. For example, even when school is closed for a few days or weeks, try to keep wake-up, bed-time, and meal-times as close to schedule as possible.
• Maintain normal school-week expectations when possible as well. (e.g.: limiting screen time, household responsibilities….etc.)
• Make sure your child will find something familiar to eat at the holiday meal so that he knows he is valued and won’t be hungry. (This may mean bringing along a container of his favorite food.)
• Bring along a favorite game so that your child can invite other family members/friends to join in activity she feels confident playing.
• Bring along an activity your child can do in solitude in case he needs some down time or just wants some time away from the larger crowd.
• Take some deep breaths, listen to music – do whatever makes you feel calm and at your best and try to be ok when things don’t turn out as planned….they never do!
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!