Holidays & Autism

by | Dec 6, 2019 | Family Stories, Holidays

Mentally Preparing and Setting Expectations

You don’t have to dread the holidays. For all of us, the holiday season may characteristically be more difficult and complicated, and we usually have a vision, set expectations of how we want things to be. ASD typically changes that for families. It adds another component that can produce some anxiety. If this happens to you, know that it is normal.

A degree of anxiety may also develop with your expectations to build memories, and this may be especially difficult knowing that you are under the watchful eyes of others in holiday settings with family and friends. 

You have this. With a combination of planning, mental preparation, and mindful expectation setting, you have the capability to build joyous holiday memories wherever you are currently with your children. 

Holiday Expectations

Holidays can be a wonderful time for families to gather and connect, but holidays also provide opportunities which can make them even more special:

They provide endless activities to focus on our goals and intentions as parents.

Remember to include your child in your holiday activities and use these times to be your child’s guide to success.

They can provide points of reference that we can return to each year to observe progress. 

You are in your child’s life every day, and others generally are not. Imagine a family member or friend commenting to you, “Wow, she/he is so much more engaged and aware, and I was able to play with them. I’ve never been able to do that before.” 

As a parent, you’ll also notice how your child develops from holiday to holiday. These changes, even the little ones, especially when noted by others, can become huge stunning memories.

You can expect your holidays to have positive outcomes and produce beautiful memories when you are mentally prepared, and especially when you do not put too much pressure on yourself. 

Tip: Choose to be selective, which means you plan how you want to spend your holidays, and plan around what you want to work out well for you.

Mental Preparation for the Holidays

As a parent, your awareness that holidays can be anxiety-provoking or stressful for both you and your child will help you to be prepared. If you are stressed, your child will likely react to that stress.

You can avoid holiday stress by practicing mental preparedness. Start here:

Plan activities that can help your child calm down if they do get overstimulated or excited. This will help both you and your child return to a state of calm. 

1- Set healthy boundaries: We tend to put too much pressure on ourselves, especially during holiday seasons. When you set boundaries, you remove some of the stress from yourself as a parent.

Remember, saying no is okay. You don’t have to do everything. Be selective with what you accept. Only take on what you are mentally and physically capable of doing without stretching yourself to a frazzled state. 

2- Prioritize events: As much as you might want to spend time with every family member or friend, or attend every event during the holidays, your own mental wellness can be preserved when you prioritize who and what you can reasonably participate in. 

Consider taking turns with family members to attend events or to lessen the length of time spent doing so. What does this look like? Instead of spending days visiting a family member, consider making it a day trip, or consider attending gatherings or events in short sprints, one day at a time, rather than many events on the same day. 

When staying in someone’s home, talk to the host ahead of the visit. Explain your need for a quiet, calm space you can take your child to if they are feeling overstimulated, also talk about the possibility of an early exit if your child needs to be removed from the environment.

3- Practice being calm: Prepare yourself and your family members and friends with strategies to use to minimize anxiety and to enhance participation. Provide suggestions ahead of your visit to reduce stress. 

Prepare your child for calmness by practicing role-playing calmative strategies with them weeks before any holiday events. 

Plan activities that can help your child calm down if they do get overstimulated or excited. This will help both you and your child return to a state of calm. 

4- Rest: Take time for yourself to rest! Fatigue induces feelings of stress. 

To reduce anxiety, try to keep bedtimes regular. This is just as important for your child as it is for you. 

5- Diet: With the abundance of unhealthy treats that surround holiday festivities, we can easily fall into overindulgence. For both you and your child, this could lead to physical and mental unease, digestive issues, challenges such as overstimulation from sugar, and could even affect sleep patterns. 

Include plans for a healthy balanced diet and the consumption of water in your mental preparations for the holidays! Strive to maintain regular meal routines to promote calm and reduce stress. 

6- Live in the present: Make it a point to intentionally slow down and enjoy life in the moment. Do not apply pressure to yourself by thinking about the next holiday activity, or by worrying about the “what-if’s” (which may not even happen). It is freeing to simply enjoy life and enjoy the moment you are in. 

Calm is key – don’t stress. Plan in advance and most of all have a wonderful holiday season!

Ask for Help

If you are having anxiety. If you don’t know what to do, or if you do not have a plan, talk to your RDI® consultant. It is normal to feel anxiety, to feel as if things aren’t going well. These are struggles many of us have experienced.

If you are not yet working with an RDI® consultant but would like to see what it is all about you can go here to sign up for a free consultation

Happy Holidays!


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