Festive senses and adapting Christmas
Lights, twinkling hanging decorations, tinsel, toys, sounds and smells are everywhere. the hustling bustling energy of shoppers, chatters, those catching up and diaries squeezing as many friends in as traditionally possible to celebrate the coming of Old man Christmas in a weeks time.
Schools break up late for us, it’s Friday and already my oldest son is beginning to get nervous so it’s time to engage in adapting Christmas.
Holidays (especially this one), aren’t always easy. Routine changes on top of the sensory richness can create anxiety for some people because of that dreaded change. Changes to routine, changes to the visitors and days out, the home environment and the vibe on our home street. Many people approach my son with much more enthusiasm than normal and ask how excited he is about Christmas and he can be a bit like a rabbit in the headlights.
Some little tips on adapting Christmas
- A few years ago we familiarised ourself with the story behind Old man Christmas and the essence of the holiday and we made a gentle but interactive story up explaining it to our son that way he could find a connection with this person who would in theory pop down our chimney and wonder through our house eating our mince pies and drinking our brandy whilst leaving us presents. It could be seen as random behaviour to a child who is very logical, but we could introduce the magic in a structured way that he would understand.
- We’d plan the menu and write it out so he could decorate it and we’d have that on the table, of course the food changes at Christmas so we made this into an activity where he could be part of the hosting and get the recognition for that (unfortunately he was never part of the washing up crew afterwards).
- We spoke to our friends about how to interact with him in a way that was exciting but also present and spacious and also to give him time to process the question and find his own response without feeling rushed to be as happy as everyone else.
- We always made sure (and still do) that in the holidays we create a time table for him with empty boxes on some days where he knows that those maybe filled with something new at the time like meeting someone for a mulled wine. Because he was prepared for that space to potentially be filled, when it was he could really manage it well. We try to keep anchor points the same like meal times and evening routines, this allows him the safety space to release or relax.
- Calming fun activities where there’s just a couple of us such as baking, colouring and making decorations. This is nice quiet time with presence but easy presence.
- Christmas morning is about stockings (a small amount of none stimulating toys) and then breakfast. Easy music, PJ’s on and the boys help if they want to or chill with their stockings if not. Then we start on presents; one at a time and we look at them and acknowledge what they are so that he has time to open them, feel the excitement, process what it is and who it’s from and then start with the next. We once did that…dive in kids! Never again.
- We keep the sugar down. Fast food, naughty sweets as well as pastry and cake galore; we have our fair share but we keep the sugar intake to a minimum which the kids benefit from.
- Most importantly we always allowed him to talk about any concerns he had, we would respond to his stresses and we would always (and again still do) build in plenty of resourcing time in where he can be on his own and switch off from the energy and emerge when he’s ready.