A Parent’s Guide to a Less Stressful Holiday Season

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With the holiday season fast approaching it is a good time to start thinking and rethinking about our beloved “holiday traditions”. No matter what holiday you celebrate, traditions that were important to you may not be as important to your own kids and youth with disabilities or developmental needs. And that’s ok!

It took me far too long to learn that I did not have to run myself ragged trying to make all the expected “holiday magic” happen in my home. For years, I would be exhausted creating that magic, while also coming up with the accommodations to “help” my son participate in Christmas. My son’s first three Christmases were stressful and neither of us enjoyed a single minute. He was crying, I was crying and everyone was sweaty. And that was by 8:15 a.m. on Christmas morning. I eventually came to realize that the “help” I thought I was giving Brody was more about the expectations of what kids typically enjoy about Christmas and less about what made sense for him.

Let me break it down for you…

He doesn’t like opening gifts.

He doesn’t like eating at big family dinners.

He doesn’t like all the noise and chaos of visitors.

So instead of pulling my hair out trying to come up with ways for him to participate in these activities, I just stopped and let him lead the way.

I stopped ‘hand-over-hand’ unwrapping of gifts. Now his gifts are unwrapped in bins or bags.

I stopped expecting him to sit or eat at big family dinners. Now he eats before everyone else.

I stopped asking him to come “say hi” to everyone. Now he has a private, quiet space where people can visit with him if HE choses.

While Christmas at my house looks very different than when I was a kid. I have come to realize that part of my job as a parent is to let go of my expectations that do not fit with the preferences, abilities and needs  of my children. My kids do not open their gifts together on Christmas morning, we do not do Santa photos, and we serve chicken nuggets with our Turkey dinner. That’s Christmas in our family. And that’s ok. Our traditions are customised for our family, and that makes them even more meaningful and enjoyable in our home.

For all the stressed-out parents out there celebrating any holiday, I urge you pause. Stop and re-evaluate what you are doing and why. Think about what you already know about your child and their holiday experiences so far. Talk to them, ask them what things are the most meaningful to them, and what ones they could do without. Then create meaningful new experiences and traditions together.

For more holiday tips, click here.

Guest writer: Niki Huxtable, CTN Community and Family Coordinator and Mama who no longer stresses over holidays.