Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s come in quick succession each year. Each holiday brings the opportunity for family and friends to gather, sharing traditions, gifts, and meals with one another. For children with disabilities, however, the holidays present some unique challenges. Planning and preparation are critical to creating an atmosphere during the holidays that can be enjoyed by all.
Most families with children with disabilities are used to planning ahead when going out or leaving town, but it’s especially important to plan ahead during the holidays. Even things that are normally routine, such as visiting Grandma’s house, may be difficult for children with disabilities when crowds of people, bright decorations, and loud sounds are present.
Look ahead and decide what about the celebration that may be more difficult for the child. For example, if loud noises bother the child, consider bringing along noise-canceling headphones for him or her to wear. If foods are going to be served that the child doesn’t enjoy, pack a meal that he or she does like.
No one says that a family must attend every party and event that they are invited to. It is okay to say no. Be selective and only go to the events that really matter to the family and those that will work best for the child. Most family members should understand if you politely decline an event.
Make an Exit Plan
No matter how much time was spent planning, sometimes children don’t react the way parents think they will. Making an exit plan ahead of time should a child need to leave will make the situation less stressful for everyone. Sharing this information with the host of the gathering ahead of time is also a good way to keep them in the loop if plans change.
Create New Traditions
As much fun as traditions are, they may not work out for everyone’s family. This is perfectly okay. For example, caroling on Christmas Eve may have been a long-held tradition but is now no longer realistic. Instead of trying to do traditions for the sake of traditions, make some new ones that the entire family can enjoy together.
Think outside of the box; it’s completely okay to choose something different if it works best. For example, bowling as a small family on New Year’s Day may work better than a family party. The most important thing is spending time together.