It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Special moments with family, sparkle, parties… but let’s face it, Christmas can get a little bit crazy at times. Christmas can also be a time when many children really struggle.
Life is full of extra visits, rushing around, traffic jams, being indoors in hot, stuffy rooms. For some, Christmas means sensory overload. The school day is full of rehearsals, and preparation for Christmas fayres, parties and plays instead of the structure that it normally provides for children who need it so badly. By the end of term our children are exhausted. Let’s not forget that Mum or Dad are also tired, busy, having nights out, having hangovers…! Their teachers are tired too. For many children, the fact that their lounge has been rearranged to make room for the Christmas tree unsettles them.
Now I don’t mean to sound negative about Christmas. I love Christmas! But combine all of the above with the sheer excitement and anticipation of Christmas day, and a lot of children really struggle to keep calm at this time of year. Out can come negative behaviour, poor sleep, and anxiety.
Here are a few tips to help your child cope with the festive period:
- Tell them what is happening each day – don’t assume they know. As adults we are so guilty of rushing around from day to day completing tasks, socialising and taking the children out. We often talk about what we are doing in front of our children but sometimes forget to tell them directly. I know I am often guilty of telling my little girl to get her shoes and coat on, and then realise that I didn’t even tell her that we are going out, or where we are going. We know that children benefit so much from knowing what is going to happen. I would hate to be carted around all day without knowing where we were going or how long for. And so do they, so take time to tell them.
- Give plenty of warning. Don’t throw things on your child last minute. They need time to finish the activity that they were doing and process what they’re going to do next. Give them time to do this.
- Use visual symbols. If yours is a child that relies on visual aids such as a visual timetable or now and next board, then never has there been a time that this is needed more. As well as needing to know what is happening in their day in order for them to keep calm, children also need a way of coping with changes should they occur. Showing a child visually what is coming next, or that there has been a change in routine can help them to better process it. If your child depends on visual aids, then try to use them as much as possible at this time of year. If your child doesn’t normally use visual resources but struggles with change and needs routine, then you may find that they really help. Note that an advent calendar is a great visual resource for children. On top of it being fun and exciting, just seeing the number of closed doors can gives children a visual clue as to how long they have to wait until the big day.
- Schedule in some downtime. Don’t let all of Christmas be crazy. Allow time for children to relax, chill out, calm down and catch up on some rest. Whilst you’re at it, make sure that you also sit down with them. If you want your children to be calm, then you need to be calm.
- Keep the boundaries. Children find security in knowing where they stand and what is expected of them. Just because it’s Christmas don’t lose sight of this. You will need to make allowances for how tired your children are, and the fact that they may be struggling with lack of routine. But Christmas or no Christmas, in order to help them try to be consistent with how you deal with their behaviour.
Anyone who enjoys Christmas knows that having children around you just makes it all that more exciting. Taking small, calm steps should help keep smiles on little faces.
Hoping you have a very merry Christmas.
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