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Parent Blog

The holiday season brings a lot of change. You might put up decorations, cook different foods, attend more events, and take a few extra shopping trips. For children with special needs, all this change can be challenging, but there are a few ways you can help your child conquer the holiday season!


How to prepare for the holidays at home

  • Communicate: Show pictures from past holidays, tell stories, and remind your child of relatives or other visitors they might encounter. Also, discuss a plan for when your child feels overwhelmed.
  • Keep to a schedule: Create a schedule with visuals to show what events your child can expect in advance. Maintain sleep and eating schedules as much as possible to keep some consistency.
  • Decorations: Involve your child in setting up or picking out decorations, and set up decorations slowly over time to ease into the change. Read about some of our favorite ways to get your home ready for the holidays here!


How to prepare for holiday activities

If you plan to visit Santa, try showing your child pictures of Santa in advance. Instead of a visit to a crowded mall, you can try hosting a small Santa visit at home with other friends and family.

Before traveling to visit relatives and friends, tell stories about the adventure your child is going on, and include details about the people they will meet and what your child should expect. It also never hurts to come prepared with a few of your child’s favorite toys and snacks for the road. Here are a few tips for what to pack to keep your child engaged.

Similarly, if your family attends traditional ceremonies or other gatherings around the holidays, talk about expectations for what your child might encounter, give instructions for how your child can participate, and do a practice run! It might also be helpful to bring a silent activity or toy if appropriate.


How to eliminate holiday stress

  • Keep things simple: Take a few things off your plate by minimizing decorations, avoid overcommitting, and try giving simple gifts such as gift cards or tickets for local events and museums. We've got you covered with a gift guide for the best developmental gifts!
  • New traditions: If past events or gatherings no longer fit with your family’s needs, be flexible and create new traditions.
  • Ask for help: Reach out to friends and family, and involve your children in decorating or cooking with you! Try this Christmas cookie recipe with your child.


Resources for this article include Special Needs Alliance and Military One Source.