holiday season

Happy Holidays With (Sensory) Kids

I originally started writing this as a post for how to deal with kids with sensory issues during the holiday season.

But then I realized, a lot of these could apply to all children.

I think kids have more pressure to perform during the month of December, than they do all year.

And by perform, I mean, play the perfect, well behaved, child.  Which we all know, for the other 11 months of the year, is the furthest thing from the truth.

So take a moment to realize that the planet is not going to self destruct if…

  1. Kids leave the table before the meal is finished.
    Who made up the rule that kid have to sit for the whole holiday meal?  Seriously?  Who?  Your great-great-grandmother’s third-cousin-twice-removed?  What is going to happen if the kids leave the table before the meal is done? Relax. It really isn’t the end of the world if kids don’t eat every last morsel on their plate.  And if your house is anything like ours, they’ve probably been snacking on goodies and treats all day and really aren’t that hungry anyways.  So, let them go.  Let them get up from the table once they’re bored and send them off to play. You know what will happen?  You’ll have a nice, quiet dinner with adult conversation, and without wanting to pull your hair out while they fidget and whine.

  2. Your kid doesn’t want to eat holiday dinner at all.
    It’s new food.  Different from what they’re used to.  That can be a huge deal for some kids. Do yourself a favor and bring along some of their favorite foods and snacks, so if they don’t want to eat the fancy turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce, then can at least have something.

  3. They open one (or two…or three…) presents before Christmas Day.
    This is another of those ‘who made that rule’ questions I have.  I wrote about this last year, and we’ve implemented the same thing this year.  Christmas Day is out, the 12 Days of Christmas is in. Throwing a ton of presents and wrapping paper and lights and noise and family and the list goes on at a kid and expecting it not to be overwhelming?  Is simply not realistic. So instead, Vista opens her presents from friends when they are received, and her presents from us in the days leading up to Christmas.  Christmas day is reserved for stocking and Santa presents.  That is plenty.  The bonus of doing it this way, is it also gives her time to open and enjoy each present.

  4. There is no Santa picture.
    Malls are noisy, loud places during the holidays.  The lights, the music, the people. Do you leave the mall after a Christmas shopping trip feeling relaxed and renewed? No, of course not.  It’s hella stressful for adults.  So for kids?  Is it any wonder that they’re a complete mess by the time it’s their turn to see Santa?  And THEN we expect them to smile and hug a complete stranger in a red velvet suit.   Uhhh…yeaahhh… about that.

    If a Santa picture is really that important, take the money you’d normally spend on a Santa pic, pool it with some friends and rent a Santa suit for someone to dress up in.  Then take the pictures at home.  Sure you won’t have the sleigh backdrop, but you might actually have a smiling kid in the picture instead.

  5. They don’t wear that fancy $200 Christmas outfit you bought them.  And the same goes for the reindeer sweater.
    Lets face it.  Fancy dress up clothes are not conducive to being comfortable.  And they’re really not meant for playing in, either.  If it’s really that important that everyone see them in that ‘ZOMG! It’ll look SO CUTE on her’ outfit, then have them wear it to the party, but bring some comfortable clothes they can change into.  The other option is to find a happy medium.  V’s wearing velour pants ( <-not any sort of affiliate link, just sharing a pair of comfy pants) with a sparkly top.  Cute, no?  Both are comfortable, but still dressy.

    VistaXmas2010 Happy Holidays With (Sensory) Kids

  6. Your kid doesn’t want to hug your aunt’s brother’s cousin’s daughter.
    Touching can be a big thing for sensory kids. And a lot of people (never mind just kids) don’t like strange people in their personal space.  Instead of hugs, try a handshake or the knuckle bump (or as V likes to call it ‘punch it out’).  Just be ready to throw yourself in front of Aunt Erma before she gets her sticky paws around your kid.

    I know for V, the other part of being around people, is that smell is a HUGE thing.  So someone wearing strong perfume? Forget it.  She won’t go near them.  The same goes for someone she knows changing their smell.  My BFF came over for coffee once and wore a different perfume than normal.  V wouldn’t go near her because she didn’t smell ‘right’.

    Another thing you can do is show kids pictures of the people they will be meeting, ahead of time.  This lets them prepare, and makes that uncle he sees once a year a little less of a stranger.

  7. They just want to play by themselves.
    New people, lots of noise, people wanting to pat them… Nightmare waiting to happen for a sensory kid.  We’ve learned to bring an iPad, or DVD player, and a set of headphones with us when we go places.  If it’s still to much for V, we designate a ‘quiet room’.  Somewhere she can go and sit by herself, away from the hustle and bustle, until she’s feeling ready to rejoin us.  When she disappears, we just politely explain that it’s a bit much for her, and she needs to wind down a bit.

The biggest thing is to follow their lead and pick your battles.  Nothing’s worse than spending your holiday arguing with your kid.  And if it means deviating from the norm so everyone ends up enjoying themselves a lot more?  Then do it.

Your sanity will thank you.

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