December is always filled with plenty of celebrations. Families with special needs children may find that this month brings even more stress for them than it does for families who do not have children with disabilities. While these parties can be cause for great excitement and for anticipation especially for children, they can also bring about a lot of stress for children who have physical or mental disabilities and who thrive on routine and structure. These simple tips can bring some welcome relief for these children and especially for the caregivers who are with them daily.
- First, try to keep daily routines the same for children. Many children with disabilities thrive on basic routines and can feel quite anxious when a routine is broken. Even in the midst of celebrations at home, church, and school, caregivers should try to maintain morning and evening routines as well as nap and rest times for children who are younger. In addition, children should be told ahead of time when something different is in the schedule for the day.
- Second, find someone for additional support. Many times, this can be a spouse who can give the primary caregiver even a break during a particularly stressful time. Those who do not have a supportive spouse should try to find a relative or a close family friend to whom they can turn. Caregivers should not feel bad that they need to take extra time for themselves. Taking time to get away from the house, even if it is just for a few hours now and then, is vital. In addition, many support groups exist for parents or caregivers of special needs children.
- Third, consider safety issues at holiday parties. Most parties are designed for children without disabilities and do not take into account people who are unable to navigate stairs, tight spaces or long buffet lines. Caregivers should find out what type of space the party is going to be held in and plan for necessary changes. Sometimes, bringing an additional caregiver along to help locate seating, navigate buffets and help with bathroom situations can be a lifesaver.