parenting · special needs parenting

The Totally Real Special Needs Christmas Emotional Survival Guide

Isn’t that picture absurd?  A skating Santa holding up a Christmas tree like Rafiki with baby Simba, as an offering or dedication of some sort.  Perhaps he’s hoping for some happy Christmas juju to descend upon him. Who knows?  

Speaking of happy Christmas juju, dear friends with kids who have special needs, I’d love to spray that stuff all over you you with a firehouse. 

I’m reading all kinds of articles with tips for families with special needs, some are great, truly helpful. I just took a different tack yesterday and wrote one directed toward extended family of kids with special needs, because we could really stand to have a bit of the burden lifted by others.  (It’s for my paid gig, not here).

But this is for all the parents in the trenches with me. 

Things might (okay will) go awry this holiday season. Channel your inner Elsa and start singing,”Let it Go”, like right now. Put it on a repeat track in your mind, your house, your car, your phone. Play it liberally and sing it too.  Your kid melts down at the holiday concert?  A huge spill (or bodily fluid if your kid is like mine) on Aunt Betty’s Persian rug?  You’re running an hour late?  Let it go!  Stuff is going to happen. Take a deep breath and move on. 

Be direct. My sister made it easy this year by asking what works for me, but if your family isn’t there yet, don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t think that will work for us.”  I have about zero FOMO (fear of missing out), so it doesn’t faze me much when gatherings don’t work for me, but I do realize this is a stretch for many. If you’re on the bubble about whether to do something or not, jotting a quick pros and cons list can provide perspective. If it’s just not worth it, say it. If you need your host to help you make it doable, ask!
Enjoy what you can do. We have missed out on plenty over the years, but my parents and sisters make things doable, so I focus on these people who are nearest and dearest. I also truly delight in cooking and baking and making home made items as gifts. In fact, I took up many of my current hobbies because I can manage them at home with kids afoot. 

Cry about it. I’m being awfully pragmatic here, but I realize that even if it’s a simple solution to cut down on holiday jazz that it isn’t easy. You are missing out, and it hurts. Whether it’s because of medical issues or behavioral, you’re trading off something you love to streamline your life, that’s hard and it sucks. You are  the one whose child melts down at the holiday concert (whether it’s on stage or in the audience). You are the one who has to leave early for a medical procedure that doesn’t take a day off for Christmas. You are the one whose child is so overstimulated by the end of dinner that you spend the afternoon in a quiet space so the rest of the family can enjoy the day. 

Focus on your child. Yes, it blows to be the parent managing all this, but your child is so worth it. Every time you soothe a meltdown or empower your child to cope or prioritize their needs, you are holding space for your child and giving them what they need to become the best person they can be. It can be daunting to watch your friends carry on with their normal lives or complain about missing one gathering for the flu when you miss many every year because that’s your life, but your life is worthy and beautiful. Don’t ever forget it. 

Special needs don’t take time off for holidays. In fact they often ramp up.  It’s okay to be flustered or disappointed sometimes because things are simply different for you than the vast majority of people. But don’t make it a pity party, celebrate what you can. Whether that’s taking time to reflect on progress or be thankful that your child survived another year. Meditate on the blessings, the teaching and/or medical staff that has been there for you, or the family support system that you have. 

And if you’re having one of those days, you know where to find me. I get it. 


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