The Joys and Struggles of Being a Special Needs Parent
When you’re a parent of a special needs child, the holidays can be both exciting and overwhelming. On the one hand, you get to experience the joys of celebrating the festivities with your family and seeing your child light up with excitement. On the other hand, parenting a special needs child can be an exhausting and emotionally draining experience. Holidays can bring added stress as you try to balance the needs of your child with the expectations of the season.
It’s important to remember that parenting a special needs child is a unique and beautiful experience, and that you are not alone. There are many resources available to help you make the holiday season as stress-free as possible. Here are some tips to help you navigate the holidays with your special needs child to keep it fun.
Tips for Managing Stress During the Holidays
- Take a break. It’s important to take some time for yourself to relax and recharge. Whether it’s a few minutes of meditation or a day spent at the spa, taking a break can help you stay calm and focused.
- The power of preparation. Make a list of all the tasks you need to do and prioritize them. Create a clear schedule and discuss it together with your family. Set aside a few hours each day to tackle the most important tasks and delegate the rest.
- Communicate. Talk to your spouse, family, and friends about the challenges you are facing, and ask for help if you need it. It’s important to have a support system that understands the unique needs of parenting a child with special needs. Clearly discussing the schedule with the family and sticking as close to the routine as possible often lessens anxiety for the child and in return helps create a more peaceful environment.
- Coach your kids for social behavior: Coaching your children BEFORE the guests arrive will help you work through possible scenarios with your child. “We will have a lot of guests coming over, let’s see how we can be a welcoming host. Are you ready to share your favorite toys with your cousins? What do you say when auntie Eva gives you a present?”
- Stay calm when the house is a mess. Recognize that you cannot control the uncontrollable. If you are stressed your kids will begin to act out as well. A messy room can be triggering. This holiday season, let go of that stress and tell yourself “I am good inside, everyone else is good, even when there is a mess outside.”
- Do less, connect more. We tend to take on too much and have no time to actually enjoy the time with our family or guests that are visiting. No one expects a picture-perfect holiday. Remember, the holidays are “being with” family and friends, so put the emphasis on joy.
- Take it one day at a time. It can be overwhelming to think about all the things that need to be done for the holidays. Try to focus on one task at a time and take it one day at a time.
How to Adapt Holiday Traditions for Special Needs Families
Many holiday traditions can be adapted to meet the needs of special needs families. Here are some tips for adapting holiday traditions for your special needs child:
- Make it sensory-friendly. Holiday celebrations can be overwhelming for a special needs child. Try to make it as sensory-friendly as possible by providing comfortable seating, limiting noise and lights, or providing headphones.
- Be flexible. Be flexible with your plans and don’t be afraid to adjust them if needed.
- Involve your child. Involve your child in the planning and preparation for the holidays. Ask them for their input and let them help with decorations and other tasks.
- Make it meaningful. Make sure to focus on the meaning of the holidays and the traditions that are important to your family.
- Celebrate in small ways. If a big holiday celebration isn’t possible, celebrate in small ways. Spend some quality time together, plan a special meal, or have a movie night.
Tips for Disciplining a Special Needs Child
Disciplining a child with special needs can be a difficult and emotionally draining experience. Here are some tips to help you manage discipline during the holidays:
- Understand your child’s triggers. Special needs children often have triggers that can lead to meltdowns or other behaviors. It’s important to be aware of these triggers and take steps to avoid them.
- Establish clear expectations. Let your child know what is expected of them and the consequences for not following the rules.
- Praise good behavior. Make sure to praise your child when they are following the rules and behaving appropriately.
- Be consistent. It’s important to be consistent with your discipline. Set clear boundaries and stick to them.
- Seek help. If you are having difficulty managing your child’s behavior, seek out professional help. A therapist or social worker can provide valuable guidance and support.
Recommended Books for Parents of Special Needs Children
Books can be a great source of comfort and guidance for parents of special needs children. Here are some favorite books for parents of special needs children that can help you navigate the holidays:
- “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children with Special Needs” by Linda Sonna
- “The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder” by Carol Stock Kranowitz
- “The Autistic Brain: Helping Different Kinds of Minds Succeed” by Temple Grandin
- “The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind” by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
- “The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children” by Ross W. Greene
The Benefits of Connecting with Other Special Needs Families
Connecting with other families who have special needs children can be a great source of support and comfort. It can also provide valuable insight into the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Here are some tips for connecting with other special needs families:
- Reach out. Reach out to other special needs families in your community. Many communities have special needs parent groups or meet-ups.
- Attend events. Attend special needs-related events in your area. These events are a great way to connect with other special needs families and learn about resources in your community.
- Join online groups. Join online groups for parents of special needs children. These groups can provide valuable support and advice. FOLLOW US on Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram.
- Connect with professionals. Many professionals, such as therapists, social workers, and teachers, have experience working with families of special needs children. Reach out to these professionals and ask for advice.
Conclusion – Embracing the Joys of Special Needs Parenting
Parenting a special needs child can be an exhausting and emotionally draining experience, but it can also be a beautiful and rewarding experience. The holidays can be a stressful time, but they can also be a time of joy and connection. By taking the time to plan ahead and get organized, you can make the most of the season and create lasting memories.
As a parent of a child with special needs, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. There are many resources available to help you make the season a time of joy and connection. We hope our tips and advice have been helpful in unlocking more joy in your holiday season.
If you’d like to learn more about how we help unlock your family’s potential through live-in child care, listen to some testimonials here.
I wish you and your family a happy and stress-free holiday season!