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Setting Realistic Expectations During the Holidays

The holidays or other special occasions can be a particularly challenging time for families. Being proactive and setting realistic expectations for you and your child are the keys to creating an enjoyable holiday.

Here are some specific suggestions that might be helpful:

  • Review your Thinking Skills Inventory noting the lagging skills and problems to be solved so that you will have a good understanding of what kinds of situations are likely to be difficult for your child and why (what skills these situations would call upon that your child is lacking).
  • If you anticipate that the holidays will be stressful for your child, think about reducing your overall expectations (more Plan C).
  • Be proactive and as collaborative as possible in thinking about the expected problems, by attempting Proactive Plan B conversations around anticipated holiday related problems.
  • Keep in mind “sensory” needs for self-regulation. Build in opportunities to meet those needs on a regular basis. In general heavy work, particularly involving the jaw or the hip are calming (carrying a backpack; wall-pushups; heavy blankets or heavy book placed in one’s lap; sucking a popsicle; drinking thick liquids through a straw; chewing gum or carrots).
  • Educate outside family members and friends about your child.
  • Try if at all possible to surround yourselves with adults that understand or are willing to learn about your child.
  • Prepare a daily schedule (whiteboard) for your child during vacation weeks/weekends. The unstructured time can be very difficult for many kids. This can also eliminate the unexpected/unpredictable situations which are the most troublesome for many of these children to cope with.
  • Try to stick to a regular sleeping schedule. Lack of sleep can increase everyone’s irritability affecting the child’s capacity for dealing with frustrations and your ability to help!
  • Determine before an activity which adult will serve as “surrogate frontal lobe”. Be sure to take turns so all adults have a chance to relax/participate in holiday festivities. Be mindful of signs that your child has had enough, and don’t attempt to push them beyond those limits.
  • Avoid at all costs comparing your child to others!!!! While he/she may have difficulty coping they likely have many wonderful qualities/strengths. Be sure to highlight these for your child, yourself, and others!
  • Take good care of yourself!!! Be sure to schedule in time for yourself and with spouse for activities that will renew your energy.
  • Make notes with your child of what worked and what didn’t for the next time. Learn with your child from mistakes (expect them to occur!).
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