If you have a Twice Exceptional child, you know the holidays can be rough. Here’s how to help your poppy – and your family – savor the birth of Christ.
Every year around this time, I start thinking about resigning.
No mom-ing. No homeschooling. No writing or working with students.
Just me, a tub of ice cream, and my big fluffy bathrobe until March.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy this time of year. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday (Pies! Stuffing! And did I mention pies?!), and Christmas comes a close second (The birth of Christ! Also, more pies!). But the season wreaks havoc on my children for months. Picking up the pieces is about as pleasant as slogging through a blizzard barefoot, uphill both ways.
The holiday season is not routine.
The holiday season is change. It’s activity. It’s sugar (oh my, is it sugar….). It’s late nights and early mornings. It’s gigantic family gatherings and gratuitous overstimulation. It’s unfamiliar, unnaturally large men in red and white suits.
It’s enough to make you nervous just thinking about it.
But you, my friend, do not have to go gentle into that good night. By developing a strategy that celebrates the gifts of the season and respects the need of your children, every member of your family will be able to survive (and enjoy) the holiday season – faculties and family members intact.
How to Make the Most of Christmas with Twice-Exceptional Children
Keep a Consistent Routine
I know it’s hard to stick with a sense of normalcy when the excitement of Christmas sparkles in the air. But I also know its important to keep some semblance of routine. Exceptional children thrive in the rhythms of daily life. Keeping that rhythm facilitates executive functioning, sensory processing, and emotional regulation across the board.
It’s true that this season will have its interruptions. Things will be different – and that’s okay. What matters most is the daily safety net of typical behaviors and activities woven into the fabric of your home life. They’ll provide an anchor in the season’s glittery sea.
Be Proactive, not Reactive
90% of success with a 2E is preparation, whether you have a child on the Autism Spectrum or with some other learning difference. Rigid thinking can precipitate a number of disruptive issues and reactions. For most gifted and exceptional kids, life is better all around when expectation and reality don’t diverge.
It’s true that we can’t prevent this happening from all the time. What we can do, though, is talk about situations and circumstances before walking out the door. Review where you are going, what the environment will be like, and the type of behavior expected in that space. You will help your children develop realistic expectations that are less likely to break from the reality of a situation, as well as offering your children an opportunity to put coping mechanisms in place.
Have a Back-Up Plan
Art supplies, books, puzzles, busy bags: have readily available anything that will give your kids an out. Whether you are traveling to unfamiliar places or hosting this time of year, it’s important to create a safe haven when your child needs a moment to gather her wits.
Sensory-soothing tools are great, from headphones, stuffed animals and blankets to silly putty, playdoh, gum and fidget tools. Encourage your children to tuck smaller items in book bags or satchels while you toss larger items in a reusable shopping bag.
Be Upfront with Friends and Family
Chances are, most of your friends and family members already have awareness of your children’s needs. Still, it’s important to reiterate once a year the need for understanding. This especially rings true for selective eaters who have a specific list of foods they will tolerate. A gentle reminder of “each person eats what he or she likes, without comment” goes a long way, as does practice with an appropriate response (“Thank you, but I know what I like. I can help myself”). If you have an introvert, make sure you let the family know it’s okay to let your kiddo do her thing. Introverts are well aware of when they need space and tend to return to the group when they are ready.
Ultimately, putting a plan in place to make the most of your Christmas season is as much for the kids as it is for you.
It helps keep the focus of the season on gratitude and the birth of Christ, not on the struggles and challenges your kids have already made great strides against.
After all, you want them to feel settled, joyful, peaceful, and loved.
Like me, I’m sure you don’t really want to resign, nor do you want your children to merely survive the holiday season.
You want to celebrate the birth of Christ and the joy he brings.
The truth is, good planning will get you there.
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