It has begun: The fun, awesome, exciting Christmas season! It can also be the chaotic, noisy, overwhelming Christmas season for my kids with special needs.
Lights and bells can easily overload the senses, even when the sensory seeker is the one turning them on. And off. And on. And off. And ON. Christmas shopping can be fun, or the crowds, noise, and all of the choices can be the perfect recipe for the meltdown of the year. Right there in the middle of the department store.
If your kids are like mine, I would like to issue you a challenge: Simplify this Christmas season.
Ten ways to simplify Christmas for your kids:
1. Pray for it. It is so easy to let the little things become THE THINGS of Christmas. It is Christ’s birth we are celebrating, so be sure to pray that you will keep that focus.
2. Plan ahead. Sit down with your husband and plan out your gifts, baking, and decorating. Knowing these things in advance will eliminate split second decisions that may cause stress for a child who isn’t prepared.
3. Schedule your visiting. The holidays always bring about extra visits from friends, and extra trips to see friends or go to holiday parties. Make sure you know what you’re saying “yes” to.
4. Use a calendar. Put the baking days, decorating, visiting and parties on your calendar. Better yet, if you have a child who is a planner like I do, have him do it. My son feels ownership of the items that he puts on the calendar. Just don’t let him use a Sharpie marker to do it, like mine often does. 😉
5. Keep those traditions. Kids count on them, look forward to them, and once you do them they will just feel better about how things are going. For us, it is putting up the tree and decorating the house on the weekend after Thanksgiving and baking Candy Cane Cookies.
6. Go with their ideas. I often find myself with to-do list and my focus will be off, until one of my boys suggests something they are interested in trying. It often turns out that his idea is better than my to-do list.
7. Monitor the “health” of your family. Is stress beginning to show? Are you so busy driving them places that you haven’t been doing much at home? Are they staying up too late? Don’t let the busy-ness take over. This is supposed to be a season of PEACE.
8. Choose to bless someone else. Have your kids help you choose some small ways to bless others. Older kids who enjoy sensory input can shovel the neighbors’ walkway. You can bake bread for grandparents, take a meal to a shut-in, or pick someone’s kids up for a visit while their parents go Christmas shopping.
9. Let them use their strengths. If your noise-avoider has nice handwriting, she could address envelopes instead of wrap presents. If your busy boy loves to help carry and set things up, you’ve got your Christmas tree helper and present carryer. If your artist keeps adding her opinion (ahem!) about the decorations, put her in charge of the tree and house decoration process. Letting them operate in their giftings gives them a purpose and lessens frustration.
10. Keep it simple. Only plan and do what your kids can tolerate. Your whole family will be a lot happier and you’ll have a more peaceful Christmas.
** Dawn shares more valuable information at her blog, The Momma Knows. **
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