Though the holidays represent a time of fun, family time and tradition, they can also bring heightened stress. On top of everyday responsibilities, there are plenty of changes to your regular schedule including travel, hosting family dinners and possible financial burden. Integrated Pediatric Therapies director Jennie Marble recommends these tools to help your family thrive this holiday season.
First, assess your priorities for the holiday season. For example, if that means time spent together as a family, gift giving may include gifts of time, such as reading a book or doing an activity together.
Pressure from peers, family, the media, and yourself to make the holidays perfect can create false expectations. Combat that instinct by setting realistic expectations that align with your set priorities.
Help your child visualize what to expect by reading social stories specifically about the holidays or by looking through holiday pictures from previous years. If you are celebrating at a loved one’s house, even if it is a space that is familiar, consider doing a walk-through the day before. The environment will look different with moved furniture and decorations, so easing your child in prior to the commotion will make them better prepared for the big day.
Having a schedule in place will relieve stress for you and your family. Prepare by having a calendar visible in the kitchen or living room, and fill in dates for the holidays and travel, as well as normal days in routine.
Before visiting your friends and family, it may be helpful to provide them with an update on your child’s progress, interests, and words of encouragement they respond well to.
Praise the positive
Identify one activity that your child feels proud of and successful with, like carrying a platter to the table. Encourage the people you are with to praise your child on what a great job they are doing, and to use the words of encouragement you briefed them on.
If necessary, take a slow pace throughout the day. When facing a challenging scenario, praise your child even on expected actions, and regularly have a rewards system. It may also be helpful to have a designated comfort space that is always open if your child needs to escape what can often be hectic energy during the holiday season.
Communication is Key
For both the adult and child, respond with empathetic communication first when you see a behavior. A tantrum may mean your child is overwhelmed, tired, or confused about changes in their space.
In the season of giving, it is important to make sure you are taking care of yourself. Take a moment to check-in, assess what you need, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
To schedule a speech-language, occupational or developmental therapy appointment for your child, or find out more about all programs and services at JCFS Chicago, call 855.275.5237.