Surviving the Holiday Family Gathering

The holidays are a busy, bustling time filled with activities and traditions. With school on break, traveling as a family or having family travel to you, and all the other out-of-the-ordinary things that come with the holidays can sometimes make things stressful for parents, kids, and especially kids with sensory issues or other special needs. The Child Mind Institute has some suggestions to help all kids and parents enjoy the family gatherings over the holidays.

Among the tips in the article are:

  • Minimize conflict over behavior: Make sure your kids know what the house rules are at grandma’s house or wherever you’re heading over the holidays in advance.
  • Talk to your hosts early: Just like you’d discuss your child’s peanut allergy in advance with your host, don’t hesitate to discuss other needs your child may have. No one needs to comment on your body-conscious teen taking seconds or share their opinion that ADHD isn’t a thing.
  • Plan ahead for some peace and quiet: The holidays are full of stimulation, so if you have a child sensitive to crowds and noise or who is simply an introvert, make sure there’s a place where they can take a break that’s quiet and gives them time to recover.
  • Discuss social expectations: Different kids have different needs, and you need to communicate those with your family in advance. If you have a touch-sensitive kid, make sure your family knows that your child should not be forced to participate in “mandatory” hugs and kisses. Also discuss with your child about their social expectations as well, such as making an effort to get along with cousins that are only seen every year or two.
  • Think about the menu: If you have a picky eater and know that the menu where you’re heading is likely to be a problem, consider bringing something your child will eat with you. Encourage them to try new foods, but reassure them that they won’t go hungry.
  • Manage your expectations: Holiday gatherings tend to naturally lean more towards what we saw in Christmas Vacation than in a Norman Rockwell painting. Don’t expect the perfect holiday. Focus on a couple of things you’d like your children to get out of the holidays—a memory of doing something special as a family, perhaps—and focus on achieving that.

For more on these and other points, check out the full article at the Child Mind Institute.