For parents of kids with special needs, just getting through a routine day is often very challenging. If you throw in changes to routine, you could really be asking for trouble. But, it is springtime, and that means certain holidays are here – Passover and Easter. Are you traveling to visit grandparents or hosting family at your home? Eating new or different foods? Have a surplus of candy and chocolate at your disposal that may have behavioral or digestive effects on your child? Are there unrefrigerated boiled eggs lying around the house tempting hungry kids? What do these changes mean to your child and are you ready to handle them?
No two kids are alike. Some manage the changes well and even blossom with the unexpected shifts in routine. Other kids have the opposite reaction and find that all these changes in their typical day are stressful and anxiety provoking. If this is the case for your child, here are some tips from parents to help get you through your holidays:
• Have a calendar where you clearly indicate what changes are upcoming (dinner at Aunt Joan’s, going to Church or Temple, wearing the new dress, eating chocolates), etc.
• Plan ahead so that your child knows what is coming next, especially if you are in someone else’s home or in a different town or city.
• Set up a reward system for positive behavior (such as putting a sticker on a chart for desired behaviors (sitting still, listening, etc.). Every gold star counts! Be sure to let your child know when he has done something good and when he has earned his “prize.” Lots of praise works wonders.
• Only take your child to places you know he can handle. Holidays are not the time to spring unexpected excursions on your child. If you really want to fit in new experiences, don’t cram in too many at once.
• Build in quiet time wherever you are. Take along your child’s comfort toys/items so that he can be soothed as well as possible when away from the comfort of his own home. Often bringing your child’s pillow along can also work wonders.
• Bring along favorite snacks and food. Sometimes just the change in diet will cause constipation and intestinal distress, which will then cause your child to not be at his best. If you can keep his diet somewhat consistent, you are doing everyone a favor.
Remember, when you are stressed or anxious, your child will feel it and react. Be aware of how you are feeling and try to take a moment to assess your situation. Ask yourself – is this the right thing to do for my child and our family? Then, trust your gut and do what works well. Chances are the result will be a happier child, which always makes for a happier family and a happier holiday.
Got any tips you can share? We’d love to hear from you.
Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input. If you have questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.