I get very excited about all of the hustle and bustle of the Holiday Season and look forward to that good kind of exhaustion that comes from decorating the house, extra baking, shopping, parties, and church programs that celebrate the coming of our Lord. For our adoptive and foster children, all of this extra activity and different schedules may be overwhelming and confusing. Families have different ways of celebrating they may not understand.
Here are several things to consider as you prepare for the Holidays:
Evaluate your schedule. Wisely choose the programs and events you want to attend. Which are important to your traditions and which ones might need to be set aside this year? Packing your schedule with events and activities every evening might be too much for your child and it could lead to your and their undoing.
Take time to explain the reasons behind the new decorations going up in the home. Teach safety lessons about Christmas trees, lights, and burning candles. Don’t assume a child newly home will understand you can’t pull on the tree. Be aware that the lights on the tree may be over stimulating for your child or they may prefer the white lights to the colored ones. The sounds and music of the season can also be over stimulating for your child. Be aware that they may not like the sound of all those ringing bells or the fireworks at New Years Celebratons.
During the hustle and bustle, make sure to keep regular meals and healthy snacks available. Limit extra sweets and goodies to keep blood sugar levels regulated. Be aware of sensory issues your child may have as you work together in the kitchen decorating the cookies. Some children love to get messy with flour and icing, while others don’t like to feel those textures. This can be true of craft projects as well.
Prepare your child for any activities that are new to the daily routine and schedule. Transitions can be hard for children so let them know many days ahead of a special party or program that you will be attending. Discuss what will happen, who will be there, and what they can expect. Provide your child with a signal so they can let you know if the activity is too much for them and they need to leave. Be prepared and willing to accommodate your child in this way. You may consider arriving late (if possible) and leaving early as your child adjusts to these new traditions and gatherings. Discuss this possibility with your host and family so there will be no disappointments or hurt feelings.
Maintaining your normal routine as much as possible will go a long way in preventing a “come apart”. Try to keep bedtime as close to normal as possible. Make sure your child is provided with regular times of rest and quiet time throughout the day. Time with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, while fun, can also be overwhelming. It is easy for a child to become over stimulated and not know how to regulate and calm down. Make sure that you check in with your child during these visits, and if necessary, slip away with them to a quiet area for some rest and down time. This will allow you to gauge how your child is doing and hopefully prevent tantrums and melt downs.
If traveling, be sure to have on-hand items such as fidgets and calming activities available. Remember that sour candies cause a child to be alert, and suckers/chewing gum can help calm a child. Keep some good healthy protein snacks available as travel can often cause regular meal times to be delayed. Sitting still for long periods can be hard on anyone but especially for our children, so if traveling by car allow extra time to stop and get the wiggles out with some large muscle activity.