Holidays and Kids from Hard Places

The holidays can be a very special time for families and children. It is important to keep your needs as well as your child’s needs in mind during this time of year. Although a holiday gathering can be a fun experience, for kids from hard places and “sensory” kids, it can also be over-stimulating and stressful. Read more for tips on keeping the holidays enjoyable. 


Points to remember:

• Keep the child’s routine predictable and consistent during the holidays as much as possible.

• Prepare, prepare, prepare! Prepare your child for the event by telling them where you are going, who will be there, what you will do, and how long you will stay. Consider creating a visual schedule with pictures of what you will be doing for your child to keep with them. Click here for a great link with ideas for visuals.

• Provide your child with a drink and a nutritious, slow-burning snack prior to a holiday event to keep blood sugar steady and prevent hunger. Examples: a tablespoon of peanut butter with an apple, beef jerky, or oatmeal.

• Guide your child in a calming, deep-muscle activity prior to the event. Examples: a “person sandwich” in which the child lies flat on their stomach and you ask what sandwich toppings they’d like on their sandwich. You slowly and firmly rub the toppings on their backs, then place a pillow on their back and put a small amount of your body weight on the pillow, tell the child to let you know when their sandwich is “done” and remove your body weight.

• Encourage your child to find you if they become uncomfortable or overstimulated during holiday events.

• Provide your child with necessary tools to navigate the environment i.e., ear plugs, suckers/gum, a favorite snuggle bear, fidgets, water bottle, a weighted lap mat, etc.

• Watch your child for warning signs of becoming over-stimulated, tired, etc. (If you see the warning signs, it is likely time to take your child home to prevent a “meltdown.”)

• Have appropriate expectations … don’t expect your child to behave perfectly during holiday events. There are lots of noises, lights, people, scents, and energy during the holidays and this can be difficult for a child to manage.

• Be flexible! Relax! Find ways to keep your own stress levels down during the holidays, as this will directly affect your child’s feelings and behaviors.

• Allow your child as many choices as possible during the holidays so they have small pieces of control.

• Allow plenty of time for transitions i.e., coming and going from places or from one activity to another.

• Remember Boundaries … don’t force your child to show physical affection toward family members and friends that they are not familiar with. Help your child learn acceptable ways to greet others (i.e., a “high five.”) Explaining to your family and friends that you are teaching and practicing healthy boundaries beforehand may be helpful.

• Enjoy your child and the opportunity to create new memories together!

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About Stevie Wilson, LPC

Stevie Wilson is a Licensed Professional Counselor who specializes in working with children and families.

View all posts by Stevie Wilson, LPC

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