Holidays. sigh. The world seems so excited but we know for our twice exceptional (2e) children and students, holidays can be an overwhelming time when they are reminded again and again that they are not neurotypical.
Here are ten tips for avoiding stress and enjoying the holidays:
1. Ask your child what they like about the holidays.
2. Involve them in preparations – decorations and/or cooking.
3. Ask them where they would like to sit and next to whom (note, those are two different things…the end of the table often has more elbow room – that might be a great choice for a child who gets overwhelmed).
4. Ask what’s hard for them during the holidays – which part? Leading up to, before the meal, after the meal, etc.
5. Ask what could make it easier for them.
6. Ask whether they would like a special signal that means they need a break.
7. Develop a “safe spot” for them with some cool down items (bean bag chair, headphones, music, books, fidgets, etc.)
8. Ask how re-entry will work best for them after they chill out awhile. Make sure they know it’s ok to NOT re-enter.
9. Depending on the age of your child and your relationship with family members, consider letting adults know ahead of time that your child might get overwhelmed and that you and your child have a plan – so they don’t feel they need to interfere or “parent” your child.
10. When all is said and done, call it like it was. “Whoa, that was a lot of people. It was overwhelming at times.” or “You hung out for a while, I know it was loud, but I could tell you tried your best.” Remember, this is a process…it will get easier and better if you take it slowly and have a plan and LET YOUR CHILD KNOW YOU UNDERSTAND!
Remember, your child doesn’t want this to be difficult either, their challenges are not intentional. Letting them know you understand goes a long way in their resilience during these overwhelming days. Doing so is the best gift you can give them and for which they will be thankful.