Tips to Prepare for the Holiday Hustle
Strategies to streamline your festivities
For many children who thrive on structure and familiarity, the holiday season – typically known as a joyous and carefree time – can be a terrifying experience that hijacks all the fun. Routines are often abandoned during this time in order for families to experience an array of events and family traditions that come only once a year, leaving many children frazzled and prone to temper tantrums. The following suggestions take these challenges into consideration:
Choose events carefully and conservatively
While parents cannot and should not stick to an unchanging routine every day, limit holiday events to those that are most important to you and your family’s values. It’s not necessary to attend every activity in the community or every family party, as it may create more stress than it’s worth; however, it is important to expose your child to novel environments and experiences. In this case- as in most- quality is truly over quantity, so choose with care.
Make prepping fun
Help prepare your little ones for larger parties by calling hosts ahead of time and politely requesting their guest list. You and your child can make a placecard for each guest, helping them know what/who to expect while also incorporating a fun and light-hearted activity to ease any anxiety.
Take a break
It’s all too easy for discussions around the holidays to revolve around – well, the holidays. Take a break every now and then this month from talking about, reading about or watching movies about this season and all its traditional events. Even this can be stressful to some kids.
Carry a sensory toolkit
Pack a “toolkit” of sensory items that you can bring with you to any and all events you have this season. This can include items such as squishy balls, fidgets, a weighted vest, a sound machine, a tension ball, a chewy tube, essential oils, etc. Consider it your arsenal for when the going gets rough.
Get everybody on board
It may be a helpful strategy to be open with your family about the challenges you and your child experience during holiday get-togethers. Perhaps a relative could provide a “safe space,” such as a quiet room with dimmed lights and soft music, that you and/or your child can go to when things get a bit overwhelming for your little one.
You may be embarassed by your child’s behavior this season. You may feel angry and frustrated that you just can’t attend an event without drama. While this is understandable, the most important thing that you can do for your child who struggles with regulating their feelings and sensory needs is to empathize with them. Acknowledge how they feel, tell them you understand, offer deep squeezes (if that is what they need), and continue using strategies such as these to ease their challenges in any way you can.
Use consistent language
Teach phrases to your child at a level that they can understand. Of particular use to many families this season and beyond may be The Zones of Regulation, an approach that is discussed further in the next article.