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Survival Kit For The Holidays

The holidays should be filled with cooking and baking, tree trimming or warm gatherings to light the Chanukah lights.  We tend to envision the holidays as they are depicted in magazines or on the Hallmark channel.  If you are parenting a child who comes from a difficult past, who has spent the early years in an orphanage or has gone from one home to another, your holidays may be more challenging.  As if the child’s history is not enough of an issue, sensory issues can make the hustle and bustle of the holidays even more problematic. 

Here is my holiday survival kit for children with attachment issues and Sensory Integration problems. 

  1. Keep your holiday plans low key with only a few smaller gatherings if that is possible.
  2. Don’t pass your attachment challenged child around to your relatives.  Keep him close if he is very young.  Have him play beside you if he is a toddler or preschooler.  Older children can easily get riled up and your child will be the one who will become physically aggressive or will say hurtful things to a “cousin”.  It never fails, your foster or adopted child will be the one to “ruin” the ambiance, making you feel like a failure as a parent or that you ruined the family feeling.
  3. Driving around looking at house lights or displays can be a low key way to enjoy the holidays.  Putting up trees and lights can be fun but try not to overdo the decorations if your child is very tactile.  Your child will feel the need to touch things because he experiences his world through touch and to put out breakable items and tell him not to touch may be too much If he is relatively new to your family.
  4. A word here about gifts is important.  Try very hard not to overwhelm your child with lots of gifts.  This can be a challenge when your child has only just come to live with you and you want to spoil him a bit.  Stockings can be fun for hours before you even open the boxed gifts.  Children love small toys and candy or cookies that often come in stockings. After stockings are done, a few gifts, 1 or 2 would be appropriate to open and play with for quite some time.  If you want to give your child several gifts, scatter them out throughout Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the next few days afterward.  Chanukah allows for gifts to be given for 8 days, one each day.
  5. Older children love electronic toys or gifts.  One warning here, children who have ADHD easily get lost in these tools and games.
  6. A great idea a friend gave me for thank you notes is to take pictures of your child holding a gift from a relative and sending that picture to the giver with a picture or handprint or a short note for older children.  Gratitude must be taught.  It is never a given for any child.
  7. Keep treats down and hold back on the cookies, candies and soda that have the bright dyes in them, particularly red dyes.  All children are sensitive to these dyes and our kids need us to monitor these drinks and foods so that they can have an enjoyable holiday.
  8. Last, but certainly not least, if you have a child with “sticky fingers”, a child who tends to take things he or she feels she wants but didn’t get, put gifts away fairly quickly.  Don’t leave money, gift cards or electronic gifts out where your child will be tempted to slip them into his pocket.  If your child does take something, have him give it back with an apology and give him some type of restitution to do right then.  Keep to the facts and don’t lecture.  Just act as quickly as possible.  Don’t ask if he took it, don’t ask why he took it.  Just deal with the issue and move on.

The holidays can be fun and memorable if your child is comfortable and has the opportunity to calm down when he has reached his emotional limit.  Look for ways to help your children participate in the fun in smaller doses so that everyone can enjoy holidays!

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