6 Tips On How To Plan For The Christmas Holidays With Children With Additional Needs

ask silvia Dec 14, 2022

(Photo 104711102 © Igor Mojzes | Dreamstime.com)

 Christmas is a time of celebration and fun.

But being off school, changes in routine and family gatherings can sometimes be difficult for children with additional needs. 

Over the years, through my experience as a mum and working with other families with children with disabilities, I have learned a few things about planning Christmas holidays that I would like to share with you in this blog. 

1. Plan accordingly to what suits your family best.
When preparing for Christmas, plan accordingly to what suits your family best. 

Your child might be a flight risk, and you may have to host the family get-together in your house as it's a safer space for your child. Or your child might have medical needs, and you need to stay on schedule with meals and medication, so you may let your family know so they can support you. 

Other children with special needs may not want to join the family at the table for the Christmas meal. This can be upsetting for grandparents (this used to be the case with my parents), so they needed me to explain why Sebastian wasn't ready to sit at the table with everyone. As Sebastian grew older, he started joining us at the table, which we all loved.

Other children may be happy to spend the day surrounded by family getting lots of attention from grandparents and mixing in with all the cousins. In that case, enjoy!

2. Take into account sensory sensitivities. 
I love decorating the house for Christmas. This year, Sebastian asked me to change the Christmas tree lights' settings and explained how they hurt his eyes when they flicker, and I never knew that flashing lights hurt his eyes!

It made me realise that there can be lots of things at home that can cause discomfort or stress to our little ones. We must pay attention to signs of distress as children may not always be able to communicate these to us. Our houses will be full of new things, colours, lights and smells during Christmas, so make sure these are manageable for your child. 

Some other children, however, might enjoy the sensory experiences that Christmas brings. 

3. Everyone can experience Christmas
Young children and children with complex needs may not understand what the Christmas celebrations are all about; however, they can still experience the beauty and joy of Christmas. 

For them, they may be able to experience Christmas through the sensesSome children may enjoy sitting on mummy's lap and looking at the Christmas tree lights. Other children may enjoy being in grandad's arms while he sings a Christmas song. Or cuddling up beside a sibling feeling warm and happy. Christmas can be enjoyed in so many different ways. 

4. Keep a routine and use schedules
As much as I like "going with the flow" and having free time over the holidays, I know that not having a routine or a plan for the day can be difficult for my son. The schedule can be as simple as breakfast, going for a walk, shopping, lunch, tv time, visiting friends, dinner and bed. 

When my son was little, we used visual schedules; now that he is older, he is happy to discuss the "plan for tomorrow" every night before going to bed.  

5. Surprise, Surprise.
I have learned over the years that my son doesn't like surprises. My husband and I used to plan surprises for his birthday and Christmas, but that did not work out well. Now, we ask our son to make a list. Sometimes, he knows exactly what the presents are and how many of them he's getting; This makes him happy. 

So surprisingly, we don't do surprises anymore! And that works well for him and us.

6. Mind yourself too
As you adapt the holidays to suit your child's needs, you may feel sad not to be able to do certain things or join big gatherings of people as you did in the past. Parenting a child with additional needs requires making many changes to your life. However, plan a treat for yourself during the holidays, even if it's coffee with a friend somewhere special. 

I already have a "girls' day out" with my friends pencilled in on the calendar, and my husband and parents will look after the kids that day. 


 And now, your turn. What are your plans for the Christmas holidays? What other tips would you give to families?


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