The run up to Christmas and the no man’s land between the big day and New Year can leave us all feeling a bit unmoored, but if you have a SEN child who thrives on routine it can be difficult to navigate, leaving everyone feeling frustrated – but a little prep work can help things more smoothly, so everyone can enjoy a calmer Christmas.
As children grow their needs change, and what worked last year might not now, so accepting what is and isn’t going to be possible and giving everyone realistic expectations for the Christmas holidays is key – both for yourself, your child and other family members.
1) Add Christmas decorations slowly so the change isn’t too big, and if possible have them help or be involved in decisions.
2) Try to keep to your normal routine as much as possible, especially at bedtime and morning, and any other aspects of your child’s day which keep them anchored.
3) If you are taking part in activities, ensure you build in quiet time and a way to escape if they are overwhelmed or need a quiet space where they feel safe.
4) Think through any activities over the festive period step by step and be conscious of any triggers such as lights, sounds, smells, crowds. Are there new things you need to consider that have developed since last year?
5) Be clear with your child on what they can expect from each part of the day, going over any aspects they may find especially tricky, such as visiting relatives or crowds. You can use social stories, draw pictures or role play to help them understand.
6) When it comes to visiting family, or having visitors in your home, explain your needs for you and your child participating and what they can expect from your child. The last thing anyone needs is stress about a family member who thinks they know how to parent your child.
7) It can be hard to manage children’s expectations when it comes to things like presents – especially when excitement is running high – but if you know they want something which isn’t going to happen, prepare them ahead of time.
8) Food is a big part of Christmas for many people – but if they need to eat something different to everyone else – then let them. Choose your battles.
9) Which leads on to don’t sweat the small stuff. We all have ideas of how we want Christmas to be, but if it doesn’t happen, it’s not the end of the world.
10) Remember it’s your Christmas so celebrate it the way that’s best for you and your family – if that means no tinsel turkey and tree then so be it.