December 19, 2019

Tips for Keeping Holidays Less Stressful for Special Needs Families

In many parts of the world, Christmas holiday season is in full swing and families are looking forward to spending the festive times together. To truly enjoy this time of the year and prevent kids (and parents) from meltdowns caused by overexcitement, lack of daily structure and diverging expectations, routines have the power to make all the difference. Here are our best tips for the holiday season.

Transition Days

Once school is over and your kids are all excited about family gatherings, Christmas celebrations and presents to unwrap, everyone will benefit from a day or two of transitioning into the holiday rhythm and then also back to school routines. These transition days are important because they allow your child to adjust to the change gradually. Areas to focus on are wake up times and bedtimes as well as regular meals. This way children are not thrown off by the more intensive schedule when it’s time to get back to school.

Morning Routine

A good start to a day is not only essential for school mornings, but also for enjoyable holiday times. The easiest way to create relaxed holiday mornings is to tweak your school morning routine into a positive morning routine that suits your family’s holiday plans. It’s all about expectations - so why not ask your children how they want to start their days? Let the kids participate in creating their long-awaited holiday mornings – you will understand and adapt to each other’s expectations much better.

A routine setting app like Brili can offer great support not only in establishing routines but also in adapting to new rhythms and in growing children’s self-confidence to manage their daily tasks themselves. Reflecting what needs to get done, how much time you have for it and which enjoyable activities could round up the morning is key. While getting dressed at a reasonable time, making beds and brushing teeth will probably be part of any morning routine, you could add some family fun into your mornings: reading a book together in bed or playing family board games to finish off breakfast. Whether you’re at home or traveling, your children will be more committed and proud to take care of themselves while having fun swiping through their visually engaging task cards and earning rewards for completing them.

Family Time

The holiday season is the best time to bond as a family - one of the reasons why we all have such high expectations. So how do we make the best of it? Making sure you spend one-on-one time with each kid regularly is definitely a good way to get closer. Playing a game or making music together, reading a book or going for a walk to chat are great ways to connect and share thoughts and feelings.

Also letting children participate in preparing Christmas and New Year’s celebrations are great ways to connect. You can decorate the festive table together or let them help in the kitchen to prepare a dish they like. It’s not about perfection, but spending valuable family time together. If you plan some family excursions, you might want to make a list of favorites and then let everyone vote on them. How about attending a sports event, taking the family to the movies or a festive concert, going hiking or ice skating?

Healthy Eating

Of course, Christmas holidays are all about sharing good food when getting together, and it is no secret that children enjoy lots of chocolates, biscuits and other treats. While we, the parents, cannot and maybe also don’t want to set too many limits, we can balance what our kids eat and drink with healthy alternatives.

Starting the day with a healthy breakfast is relatively easy and very effective, especially if you’re traveling or attend many social events during the holidays. With fresh fruits and yogurt, cereals or smoothies for breakfast, chances are high that everyone will choose a vitamin-filled meal that prevents from sweet cravings half an hour later.

Fancy Christmas dishes are surely the highlight of a festive table. If your children are not so much into exploring new tastes, you could serve healthy snacks before or plan for a child-friendly side dish so you don’t need to worry about what your kids actually eat at dinner time.

Education Routine

It’s easy to get overloaded with festive preparations at this time of the year, but keeping up with educational efforts is important during holidays as children can lose several months of development in maths, reading and other areas. You should plan at least one special education activity a day and try to stick with it no matter how busy you are with holiday preparations. Replicating school activities during holidays will make the transition back to school a lot easier as well.

Using an application allows children to practice educational subjects and social skills in a variety of settings, which means you can stick to your routines whether you are at home, abroad or visiting your relatives. Otsimo Special Education, which offers 90+ educational games designed with special needs children in mind, can be a reliable assistant for parents during hectic holiday seasons. Children can improve their math, language, and social skills and get familiar with appropriate behaviors with social stories while having fun, so keeping up with educational efforts is no longer a nuisance.

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Exercise

A healthy life can be achieved with a healthy body. In that manner, even during Christmas time, exercise should not be overlooked. There are several physical activities and exercises that you can do with your kid both at home and outdoors.

Exercises like Tree Pose, Boat Pose, Bear Walk and Jumping Jacks can be easily performed in the home environment. These activities help kids to practice their concentration skills, build their core muscles, especially shoulder and posterior chain, release their excess energy built up due to staying at home and build their stamina. Short sessions at different times a day improve the well-being of your children as well as the mood at home.

Sharing family time outdoors is also important. While strengthening the bonds between you and your kid, you can also strengthen their physical attributes via certain activities. Having a walk or bowling improves heart health, core muscle strength, eye-hand coordination, and general stamina.

Personal Hygiene

Teaching personal hygiene to children with special needs can be challenging, especially during the busy holiday season. Breaking down the process into smaller, more manageable steps and creating an action schedule with pictures may help children to establish hygiene routines easier. Using the Brili Routines app is the easiest way to encourage children to follow their bathroom routines. Keep in mind that some children can be more sensitive to certain textures, tastes and smells so it is important to adapt to their special needs.

It is easier to slip from routines during busy holiday seasons with everything that’s going on. You might be too tired to give your child a bath or your child wants to skip teeth brushing for a day. However, it might mean losing the progress you have made so it is important to stick to your personal hygiene routine. Establishing hygiene routines requires patience and time, so make sure you have enough time to spare before starting. For this reason, it might not be the best idea to start working on personal hygiene just before the holiday season if you know you will be busy during the holiday.

Even though establishing personal hygiene can be challenging for special needs children, there are many resources to communicate the process in a way that works with special children. Social stories and visual aids can be especially helpful, and you can find both in the Otsimo Special Education app.

Bedtime Routine

Keeping or adapting the bedtime rituals can be very helpful in making sure your kids can wind down from all the excitement of the day. While it might be tempting to let children enjoy hours of video games and TV shows to have some grown-up time, it will only make it harder for your child to get to bed afterwards. In preparation for bedtime - even if it’s later than normal - it is well worth to stick to your rituals, with relaxing family games, drawing or crafting seasonal decorations, listening to music or reading stories. You’ll get rewarded with a well-rested child the next morning and everyone in positive spirit for the Christmas celebrations.

If you have any suggestions and comments, please send them to us via @Otsimo and @Brili on Twitter.

Merry Christmas!

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This post is brought to by Otsimo and Brili. We are collaborating to celebrate this holiday season. You can save a great deal on both apps with the code “otsimobrili2020”. Click here to discover more.

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This post does not provide medical advice. See Additional Information.

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