There are so many things to love about the holiday season. From the smells of a warm and busy kitchen, to the sounds of constant Christmas carols and jubilant laughing, even down to the flashes of bright decorations and stimulating toys, there is no doubt that this time of the year is one filled to the brim with cheer. However, for children with sensory challenges, the holidays can be the most intensely overloaded season of the year. In a season that’s supposed to be merry and bright, here are some tips to help navigate the holidays while managing sensory meltdowns.
Schedule Quiet Time
Just like Santa, make a list and check it twice. Write out all the plans you have for the holidays, and if you don’t have scheduled quiet time, you need to get out a pen and make some changes. In a season dedicated to spending time with people you love, chances are your holiday plans are jammed in back to back for days or weeks on end. This constant hustle and bustle can easily fuel sensory overload, so it is important to leave spaces for your child to take a breather in quiet. Whether this means leaving a break between activities or simply having a plan in place, so your child can take a timeout during events, plan ahead and get intentional with quiet time.
Prepare your Child
You spend weeks preparing your shopping lists and wrapping your gifts, so why wouldn’t you spend time preparing your children for the activities and stimulants they are going to face during the holidays? Before you head out to your holiday party or cute photo-op, take the time to walk through a few aspects to help your children navigate the stimulation. Here are a few tips for preparing your kids:
Take your children to scope out a new location a few days before the event. This way, they will be more comfortable in the space and it will lower the anxiety related to a whole host of new stimuli in a new location.
Talk about the stimulants they can expect. If your child knows what to expect walking into a new situation, they will be better prepared to handle the overload.
Brainstorm coping mechanisms. Preparing your child to face the stimulation is only the tip of the iceberg. The depth of preparation comes from teaching your child some mechanisms that they can use when the stimulation starts to become too much.
Use your Resources
Santa doesn’t prepare for Christmas alone; He has elves and reindeer to help him out. When working on strategies to help combat sensory overload, make sure to use your resources. Bring an item to help sooth your child, such as a calm down bag, essential oils, a favorite toy or blanket. Having a comfort item is essential in helping children with sensory difficulties cope when they can’t calm themselves down. Resources, however, don’t always have to be physical. You aren’t the only person that loves your child, so rely on the people in your life that also want to support your child. Having other people as a trusted resource for your child will help them feel comfortable.
Finally, remember that the holidays are meant to be fun….for everyone! So, if that means you need to say no once in a while, then do it! Limiting the number of situations your child has to navigate can be a much-needed break. The most important thing is that you and your family have fun spending the holidays together. So give these tips a try and have a lovely holiday season!