You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch…
Top 5 Tips for Families of Children with Disabilities This Holiday Season
Every Who Down in Whoville Liked Christmas a lot… But the Grinch, Who lived just north of Whoville, Did NOT! The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season! Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason…
Did anyone consider that perhaps the Grinch had ADHD? Or Autism? Or Depression? Or Anxiety? While parents are busy “putting up the lights”, “sending Christmas cards” and “finding a Christmas tree” children experience a disrupted schedule and sensory overload. As a result, negative behaviors may increase during the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”. Furthermore, many children with disabilities experience stress, anxiety, depression and other effects of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. As parent of a child with a disability (ADHD), there are a few simple tips I suggest to ensure your child (and therefore YOU) “Have a Merry Little Christmas”.
- Stick to a schedule! Children like schedules. When bedtimes and routines are disrupted, kids get cranky. When kids are cranky, parents are even crankier. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is no joke. Keep your kid’s schedule, especially bedtime, the same throughout the holiday season and you too could enjoy a “Silent Night.”
- Feed your child a healthy diet! We all know “It’s a Marshmallow World in the Winter” and “Candy Canes and Silver Lanes Aglow” but your child needs healthy food choices to boost their immune system and keep their brains functioning. So, encourage your child to skip the extra helping of figgy pudding!
- Consider limiting the crowds, lights and noise. While “Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree” may seem appealing, some children simply cannot handle the excess lights and noise at holiday displays and functions. Indeed, even the Grinch hated all the NOISE NOISE NOISE! If your child insists, a quick drive to see the lights in the neighborhood may be a better alternative to the crowded stores and the noisy, loud light shows. It’s one sure way to ensure “everyone will be dancing merrily in a new old-fashioned way.”
- Hope for the best; plan for the worst. Inevitably there will be “parties for hosting and marshmallows for roasting.” There are events you simply cannot avoid. As such, be prepared with a back up plan if your child decides to “go jingle belling when friends come to call.” Keep a stash of your child’s favorite snacks and some simple games to play (kids of all ages love tic-tac-toe!) Also, consider mini sensory breaks during the event. For example, a 2-minute brisk walk outside may be enough to thwart even the most persistent child who “wants a hippopotamus for Christmas.”
- Be Patient! Run, Run Rudolph, Santa’s got to make it to town – but you don’t need to! Before dragging your child to the mall or other holiday event, read your child’s signs. If your child is hungry, tired or overwhelmed a trip to town for the that rock and roll electric guitar will only leave you – and your child – wheeling like a merry-go-round. So, postpone that trip and spend some quality time with your child. Perhaps then your child will make the nice, instead of naughty, list!
It’s a fact – Santa’s on his way and he’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh. As the Grinch learned, Christmas doesn’t come from a store; it means a bit more. So, during this hectic but festive holiday season, remember that children with disabilities may experience negative effects from the festivities. So, to avoid a “Blue Christmas”, follow these few tips and perhaps you and your family will enjoy the true magic of the holiday season.