The holiday season is in full swing! With the many activities and extra responsibilities, we often forget to slow down and actually enjoy this special time of the year. For families with young children, there is the fun and joy of getting caught up in our children’s excitement contrasted with the extra challenges of everyone being home, the need for extra childcare, and disruption to the typical family routines. So as much as we love this wonderful season, families frequently struggle to keep the order in place that is so important for children and the family as a whole.
At Speech & Occupational Therapy of North Texas, we support many families who have children with unique developmental challenges. So changes in schedules can amplify the fun but also the confusion. We know changes in a child’s routine can lead to frustration, tantrums and other negative behaviors. These behaviors are a way of communicating the need for structure and predictability. If you are experiencing more frustration from your child, think of using holiday visuals and calendars or print a daily schedule for those who can read. Our therapists are happy to assist in developing these resources for their clients!
My son, Sam, who is now thirty is on the autism spectrum. I recall his excitement about Christmas at the elementary school age. Like many children with developmental challenges, he had difficulty with the concept of time. So once the tree went up, he felt the next day would be Christmas. I put together a schedule with different holiday symbols (manger, angels, candy canes, Christmas trees) and attached a different symbol to each day. As each day ended, we would remove that symbol and count the days until Christmas. This was a great help for him (and for me).
Parents need to take extra time to prepare for the holidays so they can navigate their families through all the excitement, relatives, and activities in the most positive manner. But like they say, you need to take care of yourself so you can take care of others. For instance, I will personally take some time to relish my positive memories about the season and how meaningful Christmas is for me. I can also be mindful about how to reduce my personal stress related to multiple events such as trips to the post office to mail presents, wrapping presents, addressing Christmas cards, planning parties for my son’s friends at his group home, getting together with varied groups and family members and keeping my house clean for guests.
The link below is for a fantastic tool that will be helpful for busy parents. Even though my children are grown, I am going to print off a copy of the Winter Wellness Plan for my personal use. http://www.cmhsrp.uic.edu/download/Winter_wellness_plan-2010.pdf
For more information about Dr. Peggy Swarbrick, the author of the Wellness Plan, visit http://shrp.rutgers.edu/dept/psyr/SwarbrickBio1.html
If you would like to find out about the great family centered services Speech & Occupational Therapy of North Texas has to offer at our locations serving the Frisco, McKinney and Plano areas, please contact us at 972-424-0148.