Thanksgiving is around the corner and at Fun and Function we are full of thankfulness and gratitude. We hope you will all have a most enjoyable Thanksgiving season. If you have a special needs child or adult in your family, then perhaps Thanksgiving can be a bit of a challenge, as can any family gathering. A few tips may help you not only survive the holiday season but THRIVE through it as well. So, aside from the food, and turkey here are some suggestions to get you into the holiday mode:
Gratitude list: This is a wonderful season, but sometimes we get off track with food, gifts and parties. Yet, at the heart of the holidays is gratitude. Everyone can take a moment to think and ponder about gratitude. You can make a family or personal gratitude list for each person. Get a blank sheet of paper and number it 1-100. Each day write down one thing you are grateful for. It can be something huge like the universe or something small like a bracelet. Do this with your children and you will see how their “attitude for gratitude” changes. Another alternative is to make a gratitude jar. Cut out words from magazines with your children. Glue them onto an empty jar. When anyone things of something they are grateful for, they drop a note into the jar. In a month or a year, open the jar and read all the things you have been grateful for.
Learn and Read: Now’s the time to do a little reading with your kids about the holidays. How did the holiday start? What was it like to live during those times? Check out your local library or Amazon or Barnes and Noble for some great new holiday reads for all ages. Spend a few minutes each night reading together about the upcoming holiday.
Create. Make a paper turkey, decorate the table, and draw a picture. This is a terrific sensory experience for children with sensory integration challenges as art provides heavy handwork and engages the body with the brain. Check out some other great ideas.
Practice. Going to Aunt Joan’s for the holiday? If you can do a practice run with your sensory seeking or avoiding child, you will both be better prepared to enjoy the day. Not everyone needs a practice run, but stopping by to visit might make the holiday a bit more enjoyable and less stressful for everyone.
Plan Ahead. Give your family and special child a heads up a day or two before (not too far in advance to avoid anxiety). Explain to the them how the day may go, how long you will be visiting (or hosting), and how they can help. Let them know your expectations and how blessed you are to be a part of a family.
Notify the Family. Let your family members know that you are bringing someone with special needs (if they don’t know already) and that you may need to excuse yourselves for breaks or even leave early if necessary. If you have special dietary needs, make sure you let them know in advance or offer to bring your own special food.
Play Outside. Take a break and go outside during the holiday visit. Often parents don’t want to miss the social time indoors but this is frequently at the cost of a meltdown or frustrated child. Go outdoor with your child at intervals. It will allow you to stay longer and enjoy the holiday better.
Plan B. Should things not go as planned, have a Plan B. Remember that your child having a positive experience is what is most important, not the length of the visit or even visiting at all. In addition, your kids will have a better holiday if Mom and Dad are “in a good place.” Take your time and think about what you’d like your children to get out of holiday time.