As Christmas approaches, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learnt over the years and the advice I give to families about the holiday season. There are some key themes that have passed the test of time.
Firstly, Christmas with a child with a disability is different. There are no presents under our tree until they have all gone to sleep on Christmas Eve, otherwise they’d all be opened by Dan as soon as we weren’t looking. They’ll be no leisurely sitting around just playing with toys and games in the morning, there’ll probably be a long walk to burn off some energy before Christmas dinner. There’ll be no leisurely afternoon either, Dan doesn’t know Christmas is for chilling! Our Christmas won’t look like most people’s, but then what does that even look like? Our Christmas is what makes Dan and our little ones happy and that may be different, but that’s okay. There’ll hopefully be smiles and quality time together, but there will be tears, there will be tantrums, there will be strops, that’s not just because of autism, that’s because of a lad with autism, a 7 year old and a 2 year old.
Secondly, not everyone is full of Christmas excitement, and that’s perfectly fine. As we head into Christmas, some will be looking forward to it, others will be dreading it. The changes to routine, the lack of help from carers and therapists, fewer activities open, and the Christmas crowds can all be daunting. This may be your first Christmas after getting a diagnosis and you may be wondering what it will bring. Some may be further along their ABA journey and finding Christmas enjoyable again.
For those families who will be faced with challenging behaviour, Christmas can be particularly tough. They want their child to enjoy Christmas, they want to enjoy Christmas, but there will be challenges throughout the day for some. I hope for you there will be some moments of joy in amongst the difficulty.
But there are some recommendations I can make that will hopefully ease the pressure and bring some cheer to the holiday period:
- Do your own type of Christmas that suits you and your family, there’s no need to conform to an ideal
- Practice some self-care, take each moment one at a time, breathe slowly, you’ve got this
- Notice and celebrate the small wins or ‘firsts’ as they happen
- Get some fresh air if you can, get out for a Christmas morning walk.
- Stagger presents across the day. Open one and play with that first etc.
- Keep food simple if needs be, Christmas Day is not the day to worry about implementing a new food programme.
- Try to keep waking up times and going to bed times fairly stable.
- Remove toys from their difficult to open packaging and put batteries in, then wrap them up. Then when your child opens them, the toy is immediately ready to play with
- If you’ve decided to get away from it all this Christmas, then take a look at my travel advice blog here
To all of you who will have a different Christmas, I wish for the best Christmas possible for you and cheers to doing it your way!
Don’t forget we are here to assist, and we will remain on hand throughout the Christmas period. Our office phone will be diverted to Risca from 23rd December so please do call if you need urgent assistance.