Reducing Holiday Stress

December 7, 2016

The holidays are supposed to be fun and exciting as we all anticipate the festivities, decorations and  visits with friends and family. Add to that the much anticipated presents, overabundance of lights and visual stimuli and major heaps of overstimulation and     whoa . . . . things can get overwhelming quick.

Holidays can be fun and joyful but they can also be stressful and overstimulating particularly for children with autism. Here are some helpful strategies to lessen your child’s anxiety and increase your family’s enjoyment of the holiday season:

  • Keep Routines – Try to minimize disruptions to routines as much as possible. Try using visual stories and checklists whenever you need to vary from the routine of the day to reinforce positive behaviors and keep all family members on the same page. Experienced parents suggest going through a timeline of events on days when the schedule changes so there are no surprises to set off anxious behavior.
  • Decorating – As with all holidays, decorate gradually so that everything is not changed at once. Allow your child to be a part of the decorating and have some input to how things will be decorated. You know your child best, so avoid stimuli that may be too much for him/her such as flashing lights, musical decoration or scented items that may be too overwhelming.
  • Parties/Gifts and Special Moments – Again preparation is key to lessening the anxiety about opening presents, going to parties or having relatives around. It can be frustrating and stressful to see gifts that can not be opened yet so decide ahead of time if gifts will wait until later or be allowed under the tree until the last moment.
  • Shopping – Honestly, going to stores and malls during the holiday season is stressful for even the hardiest among us. Don’t be surprised if your child can not handle all the stimuli out shopping. If you do need to get out there, try early in the morning or at off peak times.