The holidays are said to be the most joyous time of the year. Unfortunately for some special needs families, they can be the most stressful and frustrating time as well.
Many children with special needs thrive on schedules and familiar routines. The holidays are filled with disruptions in routine, crowded events, high expectations, and pressure to host or attend multiple festivities and get-togethers. This can cause major anxiety and meltdowns in both children and adults. Here are a few ways you can support special needs families in your life this holiday season.
Check-in on your friends
It’s always good to check in on your friends, especially the ones you haven’t heard from in a while. During the really tough years in my daughter’s life, I felt like I was drowning and barely keeping my head above water. I had a few close friends from college who, despite living hundreds of miles away, always texted or called to see how I was doing.
Those calls always seemed to come exactly when I needed them the most. They were a chance for me to sit down, breath, and talk about things that lifted my spirits and brought me out of the fog I was in.
Offer to be a shopping buddy to a mama who could use an extra set of hands to finish up holiday shopping
Stores are bustling during the holidays and what can start as a quick trip to Target can quickly escalate to chaos when you have little ones in tow. I had a friend who would drop her son off at school and offer to come shopping with me when my daughter was a toddler. We would quickly stroll the aisles and my daughter would pick out a small toy, and play while I finished my shopping.
However, when we got to the registers she would start to get frustrated and want to get out of the cart and run towards the door. Just having a friend there to help me with the checkout process and loading the car while I held a screaming toddler made the trip bearable. Her extra set of hands was such a blessing.
Help spread the word and support sensory-friendly holiday events
Sensory-friendly holiday events are a way for special needs families to get out in the community and participate in things like seeing Santa or going to the movies. Some places will discontinue sensory-friendly events if participation is lower than in previous years. Just helping spread the word and sharing event flyers on social media is critical for the success of these events.
Don’t take it personally if friends with special needs children miss your holiday events
Trust me, your friends wish they could be there socializing and spreading holiday cheer. Unfortunately, many of us are worried our children will become overstimulated and struggle in a party setting. Keep inviting these friends though, and let them know you are thinking of them and would love to see them when the time is right.