So it is here. The month of December. This is a month that is beautiful and very difficult for me. It used to be my favorite time of the year. I looked forward to the holiday preparation among the stress of exams and holiday shopping when younger. Then I got older and had my first date with my husband-to-be during the month of December. Many years later Michael was born in late December so it became triply special- a time to gather with family, friends, a husband, a beautiful child. Then autism hit with a bang. It meant the holidays had to be navigated in a whole new way. There needed to be planning, schedules, predictability in our schedule and not too many surprises. This made it difficult for Michael and us. Over the years in some ways it has gotten easier. In other ways, more challenging, but we were getting the hang of it. Now diabetes has hit and with it a whole new way of handling food, preparing for the holidays and scheduling. Finally we are now seeing other signs that point very strongly to ADHD and possible ODD. Yep. It’s good there is lots of alcohol and a sense of humor in this house.
But all jokes aside, it means that this year as December approached I have to say it, more than any other year, I dreaded it. I even toyed with the idea of not celebrating Christmas. That would be kind of hard as we have family and friends who are looking forward to seeing us and us them, but my heart just was not in the Christmas spirit last week as we approached December. I was depressed. I cried. What kept me going was my personal Christian spiritual belief about the holiday. Other faiths believe in the same things- letting light, hope, peace, and goodness reign, as we remember sharing our blessings and helping those around us who are struggling. This is what kept me going and helped me decide that yes, I would celebrate Christmas as I did every year, but as always , remember to keep it simple and pass that message on to Michael.
Keeping things simple with your exceptional child could look like, planning out the day you will put your holiday tree up (if you do put one up), what foods you will or will not make, the stories or movies you will watch as a family or not, and carve out family traditions that work for you and your family with no pressure. Remember, if your child is not comfortable, you will not be either. Figure out what will make the whole family feel good. What are you better off without? If visiting family and friends works go for it. If it doesn’t, forgo it. You need to do what works for every member of your family. Remember, the holidays need to be as low key as possible for exceptional families in order for them to be enjoyed. On that note, here are some tips that have been learned by our family after MANY hard times:
- Do what feels right for your family: See what is important for your family to mark and what brings you relaxation, peace and joy. Forget everything else, no matter what others say. You are the one living your life!
- Have a schedule prepared for the month of December: In advance, (as much as is possible) prepare for the holidays with what you will do when they arrive.
- Go with your child’s flow: If your child is comfortable, that is the most important thing. When you see they are comfortable, you will be comfortable too.
- Build in time alone, time with your child alone and family time in your schedule: It’s important to have a mix of everything in the schedule in order to have balance and feel good- time alone, time with you, your partner and your child, and time with family and friends.
- Take it one day at a time: This may sound contradictory to the planning it out point, but taking things one step at a time can really help take a lot of stress off of you as a parent and caregiver. If your child is having an off day, don’t assume the whole holiday will be off. Take it in stride, adjust and remember, tomorrow is another day when you and they will start again.
Exceptional Parents, what are your tools to survive the month of December with your Exceptional Children? Are they similar or different to the ones above? As long as you have tools and remember that for many families, and many individuals, this is a hard month and one that needs to be thought through and planned out in order for peace to reign, you will be fine. Until next time.
I am a writer, speaker and parent coach. I blog about how my exceptional son with autism and type 1 diabetes is raising me to a better human being and exceptional mom. My mission is to empower other exceptional parents to trust in their parenting instinct while letting their exceptional child open their eyes to all that is possible! For more information on my coaching services and to download a copy of my FREE EBOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” see my website, http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com