This year I’ve been reflecting on the difference in my parenting now, compared to years ago. I’ve let go of much of the stress that I felt around Christmas. I used to sweat the small stuff and this year more than any other I think we understand that spending time with family and friends is what’s important. We’ve seen many friends lose their parents this year and we are still in disbelief at the loss of BJ’s best buddy back in September. It really does put life into perspective.
In saying that, I remember all too well the pressure I used to feel at Christmas. I found it a difficult time of year. BJ loves Christmas and everyone having a good time is far more important than trying to appear like a Hallmark perfect family but it took me a long time to realise that. So, today I’m sharing my tips for enjoying a Christmas get together with your child with special needs.
I used to feel embarrassed that BJ preferred a peanut butter sandwich to the lunch with all the trimmings my sister-in-law provided each year. Now he eats nearly everything. In retrospect, what does it matter what someone eats on the Christmas day? It’s not worth ruining a lunch with a battle over food, especially if it’s just for appearance sake.
If you’re lunching at someone else’s house, don’t be afraid to take your own food for your child. Flexibility in attitude will save everyone stress and allow you to relax on the day.
Sitting around the Christmas table for a long time could be really boring for a child who is tube fed so make sure you take something to entertain them. Everyone needs to understand that’s okay if a child isn’t eating.
For us, Christmas day is a day when I allow chocolate to be eaten at breakfast time and routine goes out the window. It’s a day when we can let loose and spend time playing with the games which are being opened and enjoy the moment.
Often Christmas day is the opposite to this as people shuffle between families and try and please everyone. If you have a child who thrives on routine, keep to their routine as much as possible. Give them a visual schedule so they know what to expect and talk to them about how the day will run.
It’s often hard at family gatherings for a child with additional needs to be included. We take a soccer ball, BJ’s oversized ten pin bowling set or bocce and get everyone involved. That way he has fun and interaction.
If your child is not mobile take some table top activities which will draw children to join in. We’ve made large batches of Christmas play dough and found that adults and kids get involved.
With so much on, it’s hard to add to the list of things to do for Christmas Day but it’s so much better watching everyone playing together than feeling sad that your child is missing out.
Now, we all know that there’s that one relative, you know the one. They just don’t get your child, they don’t understand their abilities and each year they say something that riles you. Well, the hard fact is, they’re unlikely to have changed their ignorant ways. Try and accept it, steer clear apart from a polite hello and arm yourself with a champagne………………or two!
SEE THE FUNNY SIDE
One year my sister-in-law had festively decorated the tables and in the centre was a pile of Christmas crackers. BJ took one look at them and was a man on a mission. By hook or by crook he was determined to crack every one. At first I was horribly embarrassed but everyone seemed to share in his joy and didn’t seem concerned. Also, it was a therapy win, he could crack the crackers all by himself!
DIVIDE AND CONQUER
Christmas day is a day which should be enjoyed by everyone. One parent shouldn’t be doing all the work. Have a chat beforehand and make sure the fun and load is shared equally.
Lastly, try hard not to sweat the small stuff and have fun.
I’d love to hear your tips on making sure Christmas day is Merry.