In this third of a four-week series, two RDI parents and CITs, Vicki Parnell and Annie Denning Hille, write about how to make the holidays more enjoyable, RDI-style.
Today we’ll discuss finding quiet moments of joy during the holiday season. Last week, we explored ways to provide personalized supports for our apprentices. This week, we will look at creating, noticing and honoring those small moments of joy and growth that happen in our daily lives, and especially during this magical holiday season.
Congratulations! You’ve taken the time to carefully plan and preview your holidays, select those events and rituals that are most meaningful for your family, and provide appropriate support for your child to be calm and regulated. Now you can enjoy the benefits of increased connection and more chances to experience the fun of the holidays together.
Annie writes: Every December, my sons and I read the sweet children’s picture book, Llama Llama Holiday Drama, by Anna Dewdney. It depicts little Llama experiencing the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and becoming overwhelmed by the sights and sounds and by having to wait for Christmas to arrive. In the end, Mama realizes that Llama desperately needs a cuddle and as they sit down together, Mama explains that the true gift of the holiday season is that, “We have each other.”
This book provides a lovely reminder that children can be more easily overwhelmed and excited this time of year. Taking a few moments to slow down for a quiet snuggle can make all the difference. There are so many opportunities for us to involve our children in rituals and celebrations: hanging lights and special ornaments, decorating a tree, lighting the menorah, baking cookies and other traditional foods… the list can go on and on.
RDI reminds us to plan for involving our children in these rituals, and helps us remember that our children need us to slow down and be mindful of also including times of quiet calm. It’s during those times of calm that we can also more mindfully notice and appreciate how the wonders of this season spark delight in our children, and as parents we can revel in their happiness.
Vicki writes: My kids are teenagers now; it’s tempting to think that other activities would be more fun for them than hanging around at home with family. Yet, as I talked with Annie about this article, I realized that our kids’ needs are still very similar. Our days of reading picture books and writing letters to Santa are over, but this time of year still offers many chances for experiencing wonderful moments together. I keep the schedule simple, so there’s time to reconnect with each of my busy teens. I’m mindful of those small moments when I need to put away the smartphone, look up from my work and notice an opportunity to be fully present with my child.
Having a child with ASD has given me a greater appreciation for the smaller moments of achievement and connection that demonstrate growth. In my experience, this continues to be true with teenagers. They are becoming more active partners in planning and carrying out
our holiday traditions, and I can see their dynamic thinking developing. I love seeing them thoughtfully consider the perfect gift, their emotional connection as we decorate the tree, and their eager help planning the Christmas menu. Our moments of joy look a little different than when they were younger, but we still follow the same basic principles of time together and enjoying each other.
Annie and Vicki: As the classic song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” There truly is nothing like seeing the sparkle of pure joy in the eyes of children (of any age!). Having a child with ASD can give us an opportunity to see the world through their eyes. In all the ways our children are able to communicate and share experiences, as parents and RDI consultants, looking for and appreciating that joy can bring more meaning and connection into our busy lives.
Annie Denning Hille is an RDI consultant in training in Portland, Oregon. She and her husband are parenting two boys, ages 7 and 9. Her 9 year old is on the spectrum. She embraces the gifts autism can bring and is thrilled to be supporting other parents and families using RDI. She can be found at www.guidedpathwaysnw.com.
Vicki Parnell lives in Burnaby, British Columbia with her husband, Jeff, and their two marvelous teenagers. She is an avid cook, a distance runner, a voracious reader, and she travels whenever she can. As an RDI consultant, Vicki wants to empower parents as the experts on their own children, and restore a sense of hope and confidence to families affected by ASD