It’s the Christmas season, which has historically always been a busy and chaotic time of year. But this Christmas may be on record for being the busiest yet! Our first Celebration in the UK post-pandemic where everything is open once again, the shops are bustling, and everyone’s calendars seem to be just that little bit fuller than ever before.
Supporting our children through this time can be a challenge. For the younger ones the traditional festive season has changed significantly every year, which is particularly difficult for those who value predictability and routine to enjoy a holiday.
So, what can we do to help?
Ali, one of our Clinical Supervisors and Board Certified Behaviour Analysts gives some tips below on how to make it a ‘Merry Christmas’ for all.
Having a clear and visual countdown to Christmas day, which is the same every year can really help. The most important thing being ensuring this countdown is done in a medium the child can absolutely understand. For example, using clear and large numbers in numerical order, crossing off each day as it goes and there nothing wrong with having a small treat every day as well to make this process fun! As opposed to an advent calendar with small numbers in a mixed order, which can be baffling for some. Another visual schedule of how the day will go, with timings could benefit some children (and adults who must balance cooking a turkey alongside parenting!)
Let’s make sure our children have the skills they need to participate in all the exciting Christmas day activities. If you can, practice skills ahead of time such as unwrapping presents or pulling crackers to make sure they have the skills they need to take part and are not excluded from activities they may enjoy.
If children aren’t able to practice ahead of time to help them learn skills such as unwrapping gifts, we can instead as parents think differently. Why not try hiding presents in a box or in a sack so that the children can still have the surprise without needing to physically unwrap it. Another way to be inclusive could be playing a game as a family that everyone can participate in, such as a quick game of BINGO for a child who is particularly motivated or interested in numbers, or a family game of marble run.
While planning and practicing some aspects of the day and having a visual schedule can help make Christmas more accessible and predictable, it can also be important to have some surprises and treats to make the day extra special. Children with additional needs may have some special interests, for Christmas perhaps we could indulge those as well as trying new things. If the child is really interested in something, maybe they could be surprised with a toy they weren’t expecting. Such as a new Peppa Pig book (a favourite in First Bridge Centre and everywhere else it seems!)
While we all know the importance of regular and consistent therapy, it’s also important for all children to have a break over the holidays. To do things they enjoy, see family and rest.
An autistic adult, who is a friend of First Bridge has also added his thoughts: He wanted you to know that when he was younger, he didn’t understand that Christmas was about family and being together. He thought the purpose of Christmas was just to get presents. Now he is an adult he understands the meaning of Christmas much better.
An interesting perspective, but also, I think that could be said for a lot of children when they were younger – myself included!
From First Bridge Centre, we hope you have a fantastic holiday period full of family memories to treasure!