I will be the first to tell you that like most of our life, our holidays are anything but normal around here. I had big plans when we would have a family of creating holiday memories and enjoying every moment. Real life kicked in pretty fast and most of the time we are fighting back anger, tears and disappointment over our non-typical life. But, that doesn’t mean we have to miss out, with some adjustments we can make the most of the holiday season. The goal really is about making meaningful family time.
We don’t do Christmas concerts because the noise level and large amounts of people are challenging. We don’t do visiting Santa, because of the wait and the likeliness of a meltdown, she’s just uncomfortable with it. We don’t do pretty Christmas dresses or meaningful Christmas church services. But, these are our favorite ways to build memories during the holiday season:
Bake cookies. This is one of our favorite things to do that we involve grandma with. Miss S loves to be able to taste every ingredient and touch every ingredient. It really is more of a sensory experience than anything.
Have a game night or day. Pick out an age appropriate game that will be fun for everyone. Avoid getting stuck on the rules of the game focus on simply having fun together, even if that means not exactly playing by the rules of having a winner. Just enjoy it!
Read Christmas Stories. We love to read Christmas books this time of year, but let’s face it Christmas books really get read all year long here.
Talk about the real meaning of Christmas. One of our favorite things is our little people nativity. It’s great because it’s kids proof and I don’t have to worry! I like to read the nativity story as we set up and we leave it on the floor in front of our Christmas tree so Miss S can play with it often.
Listen to Christmas music and do a Christmas craft. Miss S loves crafting. It doesn’t always go well. But sometimes it can be one of the most peaceful and enjoyable parts of our day. Having a visual for her to see what we are doing often helps.
Pick out a Christmas ornament every year. Every year, we make a visit to our local hallmark store during a quiet time of the day and spend at least an hour as Miss S picks out a Christmas ornament. It’s always fun to see what she picks and we are usually always surprised. This year it was the Batmobile.
Watch the classic Christmas Cartoons, Charlie brown, Rudolph or frosty the snowman. Movies are really hard for Miss S, but she usually always enjoys these old school Christmas classics. Concepts like Santa, Rudolph and Frosty are a little challenging in our house too but we just go with it.
Write notes for each other’s stockings. We don’t do the typical Santa fills your stocking. On Christmas Eve we do a Santa box filled with a few of our favorite things. So we will our stockings during the holiday season with special notes and pictures for each other. This is probably one of my favorite parts of the holiday season!
Adopt a family in need and purchase presents for them. This is a tradition that I hope to start in the next few years with Miss S. It’s definitely a hard thing for her to understand, this year she wasn’t quite ready for it yet, she wanted to give people her toys. So, I am waiting for her to be a little bit older to do this with us yet.
Advent Calendar. We started this last year and for a kid who loves a schedule this is really fun (and it also kind of drives me nuts because it’s another routine I have to do!). We actually have just purchased the Lego advent calendar both years. A few years ago before Miss S food allergies were diagnosed I did purchase a chocolate advent calendar from whole foods and that was really fun.
It’s really about readjusting the holidays to meet your family and your child’s needs. We do a lot of shopping online with our daughter so she can pick out gifts for others because stores are hard. We do baking where she can taste all the ingredients because it’s really more of a sensory experience.
My guess is that you have your own list of adjusted holiday traditions, part of the journey of being a special needs parent is embracing and accepting the parts of your life that are different from what you expected. May you find the peace of the season in whatever your holiday traditions may be!
If you enjoyed this post you might also enjoy:
7 Christmas Wishes from a Sensory Mom
When your Christmas isn’t Merry and Your Heart isn’t Light
When Meltdowns Ruin the Fun
Simple Christmas Tree Craft
7 Great Gifts for Special Needs Parents