Holidays are fun, joyful times with family and friends! AND they are overwhelming, over-stimulating, and exhausting for nearly all of us. Imagine being a sensory kid who is overwhelmed by stimulation on a daily basis, or a sensory kid who needs more, more, more….more movement, more touch, more everything! Holiday gatherings can prove to be very challenging for any type of sensory kid.
Before you head off to ten different family gatherings, make a plan to help your child be successful and ease your stress. First, consider all the people, the noise, the smells, the food, the visual stimulation, the confined spaces, the restrictions from touching all the tempting decorations, the transitions…….Think about how each of these things might affect your child, and how you can provide strategies to help him cope.
It is best to think about strategies to implement prior to, during, and after an event to help your child maintain organization and regulation. Here are some suggestions:
PRIOR TO THE EVENT
Prepare your child:
*Talk about the upcoming event. What will it be like? Who will you see? Always talk about things in a positive way.
*Make a social story about the events.
*Mark the calendar and provide regular reminders of the upcoming events.
*Use a picture schedule for the day of the event, including the event itself.
*Practice different scenarios that may be challenging, including exposure to foods that
may be served.
*Look at a photo album and talk about the relatives you might see.
*Look at pictures of previous holidays and discuss how things may be similar or different this year.
*Make a plan:
1) Allow your child to take a preferred activity and set up the guidelines for playing.
2) What are acceptable activities allowed at the particular location. Is running, jumping, yelling okay? Is going to play in a bedroom okay?
3) Allow your child to choose acceptable clothes to be more comfortable (may need to take a change of comfy clothes for later in the event).
4) Let your child know that it is okay to tell you that he needs a break!
5) Make a plan for your child to have a place to go if he needs a break.
DURING AN EVENT:
*Use a picture schedule to predict what will happen.
*Do calming strategies in the car on the way or prior to if at your home (calming music, chewing gum, weighted blanket or lap pad, etc.)
*Have an activity available for your child.
*Have a fidget available.
*Use oral motor strategies (gum, chewy snacks, drinking through a straw)
*Plan breaks to get away from the action BEFORE he needs it.
*Allow activities to get needed sensory input (allow a jumping break, a fidget break, a quiet blowing activity, etc.)
*Use a visual timer (Time Timer has an app) to provide preparation for the end of the visit.
AFTER AN EVENT:
*When you get in the car, keep talking to a minimum; may need to use calming music.
*Use same calming strategies as used on the way to the event (calming music, chewing gum, weighted blanket or lap pad, etc.)
*Allow down time afterward, and maybe even the next day…..use calming strategies to decompress…we all need that!
*Try to limit the expectations placed on the child.
*Try to limit the number of activities in a given day; allow for breaks between “stops”.
*Talk about all the things that went “right”; talk about the great job he did in certain situations.
*Take a deep breath……and Have Happy Holidays!!!