Top tips for a less-stressed Christmas if your child has additional needs
We all know Christmas can be stressful – and this can be intensified when your child is disabled or has additional needs. So we asked some of our Amaze staff who are parent carers to tell us their top tips for making Christmas go a bit more smoothly.
1. Create a bit of magic by getting your child to write to Santa
You can do this via the Royal Mail at https://www.royalmail.com/christmas/letters-to-santa and as long as the letter arrives by a specific date, they’ll get a letter back from the big man before Xmas. If you do it via the NSPCC you can make a donation of £5 and personalise the letter even more. Visit https://letterfromsanta.nspcc.org.uk/letter-from-santa
2. Print out a Christmas countdown calendar and add all planned activities, outings and visits to it
This could be written or visual, using photos and drawings – whatever works best for your child’s needs. You can find free Christmas countdowns via Pinterest or buy Christmas routine boards from ASD Bright Ideas. Even better, make your own.
3. Tell or remind family and friends about your child’s needs in advance
If they are prepared for things being a bit different everyone will be less stressed. Plan their visits well ahead of time (no surprise visits thank you!) and make sure you enlist their help during the visit.
4. Give people advice about what to buy as presents
Age-appropriate gifts may not suit your child’s developmental age and it’s okay to tell friends and families what age gifts will suit – as long as your child doesn’t mind.
5. Get toys play-ready before you wrap them
Make sure batteries are installed and excessive packaging removed so they’re all ready to go once the paper has been torn off. For those kids who are really affected by surprises, you could write labels or pictures on gifts to reduce the anxiety of not knowing what’s inside.
6. Give children chores depending on their age and ability, if possible
It may feel easier to do it yourself but giving them a task means they have a focus, which will reduce their stress levels when visitors arrive, as they know what’s expected of them.
7. Leave one room or area in your house completely Christmas-free
This gives your child has safe space to go and chill if it’s all too overwhelming (their own bedroom may be easiest).
8. Plan your outfits for Christmas day and Boxing Day and have them clean, ironed and ready
You’ll feel nice or at least won’t be stressed out searching for something passable while the rest of the family are in their best togs.
9. Be mentally prepared for your children to wake up at silly o’clock on Christmas morning
If you accept it, you’ll be less grumpy about it and there’ll hopefully be time for a nap in front of the telly later!
10. Don’t make Xmas lunch a big deal for your child by forcing them to eat turkey and all the trimmings
Let them eat their favourite meal too, even if it’s fish fingers or pasta with butter. And don’t be embarrassed about putting the ketchup on the table.
11. Get some fresh air
Go for a walk on the beach, in the park or countryside on Christmas Day to give them a breather from everything being Christmas-related.
12. Sit down to enjoy family films together
Get out of the kitchen and try and watch the big Christmas film with the kids. It’s a lovely, restful thing for everyone to share – and if you fall asleep, don’t worry, they might never notice!
Thanks to Louise, Lizzie and Emma from Amaze for these brilliant tips.