The holiday season can be an exciting and magical time for many families, but it can also be overwhelming and stressful for neurodivergent kids. The bright lights, crowded stores, and festive music can all trigger sensory overload. As a parent, it’s important to understand your child’s unique sensory needs and provide them with the support they need to enjoy the holidays in their own way.
Planning ahead can be a crucial step in helping your child navigate the holidays. Discuss your plans with your child and ask them what they need to feel comfortable and safe during the holiday events. This may include taking breaks, bringing comfort items, or avoiding certain activities. Consider creating a visual schedule or using social stories to help your child understand what will happen during the holiday events. The more prepared your child feels, the more likely they will have a positive experience.
Create a Calm Space
Having a designated calm space can be a lifesaver for your child during the holidays. This can be a quiet corner in your home or a space at the holiday event where your child can take a break and decompress. Fill this space with items that can help soothe your child, such as fidget toys, noise-canceling headphones, or a weighted blanket. Use this space as a safe haven for your child when they are feeling overwhelmed.
Respect Your Child’s Limits
It’s important to remember that every child is different and has their own limits. Pay attention to your child’s body language and behavior, and recognize when they are reaching their limit. Don’t force them into uncomfortable situations or ask them to do something that is beyond their capabilities. Instead, work with your child to find a compromise that works for both of you. This can help to build trust and establish a positive relationship with your child.
Encourage Sensory-Friendly Activities
There are plenty of sensory-friendly activities that your child can enjoy during the holidays. Consider visiting a quiet Santa Claus at a sensory-friendly event, going to a light show or a drive-through holiday display, or baking holiday treats at home. Encourage your child to participate in activities that they enjoy and avoid those that may cause sensory overload.
Finally, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself as well. Parenting a neurodivergent child can be emotionally and physically exhausting, especially during the holidays when there are added stressors. Make sure to take breaks, practice self-care, and reach out for support when you need it. Remember that you are doing the best you can and that it’s okay to ask for help.
The holiday season can be a magical time, but it can also be stressful and overwhelming for neurodivergent kids. By planning ahead, creating a calm space, respecting your child’s limits, encouraging sensory-friendly activities, and practicing self-care, you can help to support your child’s unique sensory needs during the holidays.
Remember to take things one step at a time and to celebrate the small victories along the way. With a little bit of support and understanding, you and your child can create lasting holiday memories together.
Raising Lifelong Learners Episode #221 — Managing the Holidays with Sensory Kids with Sarah Collins
This time of year can not only be busy but also overwhelming, particularly for parents of children with sensory needs. Today’s interview aims to provide helpful advice and resources to ensure a smoother holiday season for all.
Sarah Collins, occupational therapist and homeschool mom, shares insightful tips on managing intensity and sensory challenges during the holidays. She stresses the critical role of managing and organizing sensory input in preventing overwhelming experiences for neurodivergent children.
One of her main recommendations includes leveraging proprioception, or heavy work, to calm the nervous system. Another useful tool she touched on was the use of social stories for better predictability and flexibility. Social stories cover all senses and are usually written in first person, and modern apps have made creating them easier than ever.
We also discuss practical strategies for dealing with holiday gatherings, understanding your child’s needs, using the zones of regulation or the alert program, and much more.
The holiday season doesn’t have to feel overwhelming for you or your child. With a bit of planning and understanding, it can be joyous, memorable, and educational. Let’s use this opportunity to teach, learn from, and build lifelong learners in our sensory kids.
Links and Resources from Today’s Show
- SPONSOR | CTC Math
- SPONSOR | Reading Eggs
- Raising Lifelong Learners Membership Community – The Learners Lab
- Raising Lifelong Learners Facebook Group
- Masterclass | Building Family Connections – Raising Lifelong Learners
- Raising Resilient Sons by Colleen Kessler, M.Ed.
- Helping Our Kids Self-Regulate with Sarah Collins
- Zones of Regulation book
- Zones of Regulation poster
- The Alert Program book
- Strengthening Executive Function Skills: A Conversation with Sarah Collins
- Self-Care and Co-Regulation | Balancing Parenting and Sensory Needs
- Managing Your Child’s Intensity During the Holidays
- Intense Children and The Holidays: A Parent’s Guide
- RLL 33: The Holidays and Your Differently-Wired Child
- Autism and the Holidays | Julie’s School Performance Story
Connect with Sarah
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