For the past 5 years, we have made a conscious effort to slow down and stay away from the Christmas hype. If you are a family affected by special needs or disability, there may already be stress or busyness in your life. No need to add to it with obligations that we place on our selves, the expectations of perfection and of course the family relationships that can disappoint us even more than usual. While our family is far from nailing this philosophy on Christmas (I end up overspending, leaving things until the last minute and stressing over special outfits), there are some guiding principles that I found helpful. I hope that you will find them helpful as well.
Create your own holiday mission statement
It doesn’t have to be anything formal, it could be something as simple as “our focus is on the birth of Jesus” or “we will only attend events that bring us joy, not attend out of obligation” or “this holiday, we will volunteer together as a family and enjoy experiences over things” or “each child will receive 3 presents that are meaningful over many that are quickly forgotten about”. There are so many ways to change the focus of this season to faith based or to creating space for the people that matter the most to us. For some families, preserving a routine is important in order to thrive. That may require declining invitations and situations that are overwhelming.
Focus on the joy of the season
There are so many ways to enjoy this special time of year. For our families, it may look different than our family and friends, but it will still be special. Check out my post about sensory ideas for the season or my Pinterest board might also be helpful in coming up with ideas. Many places now offer sensory friendly events from Santa visits to church services. It is ok to skip everything and anything that doesn’t bring you closer to your mission statement. No guilt allowed! (last year, my post Slowing Down this Christmas Season included some of the ways we enjoy this time of year)
Create your own family traditions, if the ones passed to you don’t work. We love driving around looking at Christmas light displays. Kids in pajamas with hot chocolate to drink and we don’t have to worry about wheelchair accessibility, meltdowns or crowds. We also have traditions that each of our children enjoy differently. We read a devotional during the month of December and there isn’t an expectation of sitting still as each child listens differently. We just want to enjoy the stories. This is the devotional we use that I like to children of all ages
Communicate with family and friends
Do what works for your family without guilt or obligation. Sometimes family and friends will not understand but I hope that they do. Start the conversations early to set the right tone and expectations. If you think a particular sensory activity would work for your family, invite family to come with you. That way there is less stress to attend events that may not work for you. Offer to open your home for baking cookies vs doing a big Christmas dinner together. Suggest a time that works best if late gatherings might cause meltdowns.
I would love to hear from you what your favorite holiday traditions are or how you navigate the holiday rush. Comment below!
Let’s connect on Instagram, I just started a new account dedicated to the blog and I’d love it if you stop by to see it. I post daily snapshots of our life there and give you a heads up on new blog posts too.