I often think about the hustle and bustle of the holidays and how that affects the sensitive child. As we approach this season of joy, I thought I would share a few tips on how to make this time of year sensory friendly.
· Plan ahead: Be sure to schedule your holiday visits, parties and gatherings in advance and avoid any last minute changes when possible. By knowing what events are in the future, your child will be ready for the situation or venue and know what to expect. Oftentimes, I find it is the unexpected that makes a child anxious. Plus, you will also know what items you may need to bring along to make events more enjoyable. For example, headphones may be needed at a Christmas Symphony.
· Ask: As parents, we sometimes schedule the day to day routine of our children without asking them for input. Yes, The Nutcracker Suite has a great cultural merit, but if your child has no interest, it might prove advantageous to pass on it. By avoiding sensory overload, you are helping your child from becoming overwhelmed.
· Be Proactive: You know your child’s limits, but your extended family may not. Let them know your child’s triggers so the holidays don’t become tedious for all those involved.
· Keep it Simple: If you’ve ever been to Wal-Mart on Black Friday and experienced being overwhelmed by the mass of people or the onslaught of purchasing choices, than you can relate to a child with sensory issues. Now, imagine feeling this way day in and day out regardless the time of year; to this, add the holiday stresses we all feel. It really is no wonder our sensational children dread November to January. Keep it simple – pick a couple of low crowd events to attend; choose one party to the eight your invited too; and avoid those things which are an ill fit for the child with sensory needs.
· Enjoy the Season: More importantly, make sure to enjoy the season with each other. There are many ways to make memories at home. Reading stories, making gifts and enjoying hot cocoa are some of our family’s favorite activities. Pick those things which your child delights in and go from there. You may be surprised at the kitchen helper’s Christmas cookies or the beautifully wrapped presents by your little artisan. Not only will this approach alleviate stress, but it will also encourage your child to view the holiday season in a positive light.
· Help Others: Sometimes engaging your sensory child in tasks help alleviate overload. By asking your child to pick a way to help someone this holiday season you are not only empowering them to help another person, but also busying their hands and keeping their minds from being overwhelmed. A great way for a sensitive child to be of service to someone else may be in the form of creating small gifts you both could drop by an assisted living facility or deliver to a fire station. Another way may be to choose a name of another child from an Angel Tree and “play Santa.”
Readers, please share any of your family’s useful tips to help children with sensory issues avoid overload this season.
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