Holidays are for friends, family, and food. Celebrations. Decorations. Travel and shopping. Mostly they are a departure from routine. Which, for most of us, is welcomed. Yet, for a sensitive child this can lead to confusion, meltdowns, and disruptions of family traditions.
Sensitive children need specific preparation for the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.
The chaos, stimuli and increased interactions cause elevated anxiety and stress to many children. The heightened emotions manifest as behavioural and physiologic changes that can be managed through preparation.
Here are some tips to prepare your child for a season full of holiday cheer.
Eliminate the Unknown
Explain who will be visiting or who you will be visiting. Learn all you can, and express as much as possible to your child. Show them photographs of who they will meet, and places they will go. As much as the unknown may be an adventure for some, for young or sensitive children mystery creates anxiety.
Accept Food Choices
While traditional holiday foods make family gatherings special for others, it may be best to serve your child’s favourite food during a celebration. Add a taste of new foods, but rely on old favourites. (Consider cooking special holiday foods during the year to introduce them into the child’s diet slowly.)
Communicate with Hosts and Guests
Let others know what works best for your child. Give everyone a heads up (even as a reminder). Does your child prefer to shake hands, fist bump or hug? Let relatives know so they are not at a loss, too.
Pack an Activity Bag
Whether you are staying home, or traveling, pack a special “Holiday Activity Bag”. This makes for a special treat for a child who decides to step back from group activities for a time. Pack familiar activities, and new special ones, to make quiet time rejuvenating for your child.
A plan makes all the difference for your child, and every member of the family.