Holidays are wonderful. They are magical and bring with them so many opportunities for making memories. They are also stressful, full of anxiety and expectations, and overwhelming, especially if you happen to have sensitive or neurodiverse children. Holidays mean normal schedules deviate and for neurodiverse kids, this can mean chaos.
Here are a few tips that help us and our children hold it together through the chaotic holidays.
Drop the family expectations.
This may be a hard one to come to terms with, but letting some expectations and family traditions go may serve you well. Not all traditions need to happen if they aren’t working for your family; letting them go can be the best decision you make for yourself. We used to spend every Thanksgiving with extended family. The spread was always great and the host’s house was always impeccable. We ate from real china and enjoyed dessert in the formal living room of this six-bedroom mansion.
But here’s the thing, it wasn’t comfortable for us at all. It was too nice for us to relax with our child. It was even harder trying to occupy her in the beautiful, but nowhere near childproof, home. Eating on fancy china is great until your 4-year-old decides to toss a plate. From the time we walked in until the time we left, we were in stressed-out parenting mode. Our daughter also didn’t enjoy it because we had to hover and tell her NO to virtually everything. No one was able to relax. Four years ago, we decided to drop that tradition and stay home. Now Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays. We stay home and cook together as a family, watch the Macy’s parade in our pajamas and enjoy not traveling that day. Dropping the family expectations was life-changing for us all.
Make your own traditions.
Finding traditions that work with who you and your family are now is what makes the holidays enjoyable. If you used to travel to see family on Christmas Day but that’s not in the cards for you anymore, find a new tradition. We now spend Christmas night having Chinese food and going to the movies as a family. It’s the perfect way to end a day of gift opening and joy. It’s not something either of us grew up doing, but it works for who we are now and we love having a new tradition with our kids.
Outsource if and when you can.
Spending hours shopping at the mall or days prepping away in the kitchen never made anyone’s holidays great. Outsource the jobs you hate, order online, find someone to cater and spend time doing the things you love most this holiday season. Baking Christmas cookies is one of our favorite traditions, but baking 10 different types of cookies like my mother did each year just isn’t feasible for a working mom. Instead, we get together with friends/family each year and do a cookie exchange. We each bake one type of cookie and trade them amongst ourselves (more sweets for less work) with the added bonus of time with loved ones.