Five Ways to Make Holidays Happier for Children with Different Abilities
By Dr. Ben Spitalnick, Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society, Board of Directors
Every parent wants the holiday season to be a special, joyous time for their child, and parents of children with different abilities or special needs usually have to take a couple of extra steps to ensure the holidays are just that.
To help along the way, the Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society offers five tips to help make the holiday season run smoothly and keep your kids happy.
1. Prepare Your Child
Your child wants to know the plans for the holiday season as much as you do. To reduce stress and prepare your child for upcoming activities, explain what you’ll be doing, who will be there and what the schedule is for the day. Write down the schedule for them and include pictures.
2. Prepare Your Family
Remind your family of the needs of your child. If there are other little ones, ask their parents to talk to them about your child’s differences. This can help reduce confusion and will foster a sense of understanding. It might help, a few days before everyone gets together, to send family members an informational email with 10 things to know about your child.
3. Bring Familiar Toys
The holidays are a chaotic time. Familiarity will help your child remain calm and feel comfortable. Bring his or her favorite toy, book or something that soothes your child at home. When things get a little too crazy, that may help your child feel comfortable.
4. Ask For Help
Don’t feel guilty for asking for help. Every parent needs help, and you do too. Explain the needs of your child to another family member or two and ask them to step in when you need a break. Explain to your child, too, that this person will be playing with them or watching them for a few minutes while you are busy.
5. Let Your Child Help
Preparing for the holidays can be stressful, but if you let your child help, you can create family traditions and keep everyone a little happier. Give your child a task such as greeting everyone at the door or stirring the sauce. This will keep your child focused, reduce his or her stress levels and give you an extra hand.
To create a happier time of celebration, we encourage all parents of children with different abilities to prepare their little ones a bit extra this holiday season. These small proactive measures can do a lot to help your child adjust to large crowds, new situations and days off-schedule. We hope this will make your holiday season a little jollier.
Dr. Ben Spitalnick is managing partner of Pediatric Associates of Savannah and currently serves as Representative for the Savannah area to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Spitalnick is from North Atlanta and is a graduate of the University of Georgia, received his medical degree from MCG, and did his Pediatric Residency at Memorial Health University here in Savannah. He serves on the board of directors for the Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society.