While holidays are filled with joyful memories, they can also bring added stress for parents. Changes in schedules, visits to unfamiliar sites and meeting new people can lead to challenging behaviors in some of our children. In thinking about the upcoming Easter weekend, I wanted to share a few tips that I have learned over the years:
– Avoid Easter Egg Hunts that involve hundreds of children. The noise, distractions, and unfamiliar faces can lead to anxiety in some children. What you hope to be a fun, positive experience, quickly can turn in the other direction.
– Make a reasonable schedule. One or two visits to relatives’ homes may be as much as your child can handle. Keep the visit time limited. If you are going for dinner, arrive right before and depart soon after. Don’t plan on spending 2 or 3 hours in unstructured time. Follow your usual schedule for most of the day and then go on your visit.
– Practice makes ease. Write social stories days in advance and practice the skills you want your child to demonstrate. This could be simply walking up to each person, shaking hands, and saying, “Happy Easter!”
– Use visual aids. Give your child a visual schedule of what the visit will look like. This could also be done with pictures.
i.e.: 4:30 p.m. – Leave home
5:15 p.m. – Arrive at grandma’s home
5:15-5:40 p.m. – Visit
5:40-6:00 p.m. – Eat Dinner
6:00-6:30 p.m. – Take a break. If it’s a beautiful day go for a walk, some outdoor play, or watch your child’s favorite DVD.
6:30 p.m. – Eat Dessert
6:30 p.m. – Depart
– Comfort Zone: Take your child’s favorite toy, book, or iPad to the party. Identify a quiet room in the house that your child can use for a break. When you arrive, show your child the room and explain the room’s purpose.
– Work as a team. If you and a spouse or a friend are attending the event together, drive two cars. If you need to leave early with your child, then the rest of the family can stay until the end. You won’t feel guilty that the rest of the family is missing out.
– Use a tag-team approach. Ask a few family members who understand your child’s situation if they would give you a break and stay with your child so that you can visit with your family.
– Take your time. If you are responsible for Easter dinner, take a vacation day or two prior to the holiday so that you can prepare while your child is at school. If family members offer to bring a dish, take them up on it. If you are going to someone’s house, be sure to explain to them your child’s diet restrictions, as well as preferences.
– Keep your child engaged. Involve your child in some aspect of dinner preparation, such as coloring place cards, writing a holiday prayer, hanging up coats, etc. Make a job list for your child to complete and have him or her cross jobs off as they are finished.
– If the day goes well, congratulate yourself. Make a list of what you did that helped your child to be prepared and any ideas you can use for future holidays.
– Forgiveness brings peace.
If the day is challenging when you go to bed:
- Forgive yourself for any negative feelings you have.
- Forgive your child for his or her behavior.
- Forgive your friends and family for not having the patience and understanding you have.
Holidays will always bring stress. But with good planning, you may actually begin to look forward to them. Happy Easter!