Christmas can be a very exciting time; it is full of new and different activities, decorations and flashing lights, and (in my household at least) people gathering together and making a lot of noise! Of course, for some, the stress or excitement from these changes can be overwhelming or challenging. Here are some strategies that have helped some of our members to manage the busy festive season!
Maintaining a routine: it can be helpful to maintain consistency through the Christmas period by keeping key aspects of the normal routine the same, such as the times of meals, or the routines for getting ready in the morning.
Visual schedules: Using a calendar or a visual timetable to prepare your child for Christmas day can be really helpful. Though, knowing the individual in this case is important, because for some children highlighting the day and the build up can lead to high levels of anxiety or over-excitement. We can help you to put these together! Contact Wendy (firstname.lastname@example.org, 01371875100).
For those who use Makaton symbols or signs, there are also some great free resources available.
Preparing for guests: If you are having guests over during Christmas, try making a calendar which shows their photos and names to let your child know when they are coming and going.
Introducing decorations: Sometimes the new and different decorations can be a bit of a shock. Think about decorating gradually and try to involve your child in changes to the house e.g. let them handle decorations, or help to decorate the tree in stages.
Managing large groups: If you are visiting family or friends try to be the first to arrive, so your child doesn’t have to enter a room where there are already lots of people.
Spread presents out: A big pile of presents may be overwhelming, so introducing presents one by one can help to make it more manageable. Some people may also find it easier if the presents are not wrapped, to reduce the anticipation of waiting to find what is inside. It may also help to encourage to child to include realistic gifts on their Christmas list, to avoid any disappointment.
Christmas dinner: Dinner time can be stressful, so think about giving the option of eating before or after everyone else. It can also be good to ensure not too much food is on your child’s plate. This can help with sickness too, which can happen when people get over-anxious or excited.
Having a focus: Giving your child a ‘job’, such as giving out the Christmas presents or collecting wrapping paper, can help to provide a focus.
Time-out: Make sure that there are opportunities for quiet-time, or ‘Christmas-free-time’. This can involve pre-planning a nap or some relaxing time during the day, especially around times which might be stressful, like when others are opening presents. Also making sure that there is a quiet place available that your child can go to (or be guided to) for some space during the day, if things become too much. Try doing something that your child finds calming, such as listening to music or watching a favourite DVD.
Is there anything else that has worked for you or your family? Let us know your experiences and we will update this list for others to use! You can also get ideas from other families in our facebook group.
All of us at the Fragile X Society wish you a very happy Christmas!