Holidays can be a lot of fun but they can also be stressful even for the most neurotypical (NT) people. Routines are altered. Often, we are visiting family or friends or they are visiting us. Many meals are different than usual. Schools are closed. People have days off. Things are different.
For most people these differences and this stress are worth it for the joys that holidays bring. But many NLD people have more trouble than most with changes in routine. How can we help our children or ourselves deal with this?
The sources of stress
What makes the holidays so stressful for NLD people? In summary, it is (as noted above) change . Change is hard. But in addition, the changes often are ones that make things harder for us. NLD children are used to their parents and their parents are used to them. Maybe not always as accepting or cherishing as they might be, but at least familiar. NLD adults have often adapted their environments to suit themselves. Other family members and friends will be less familiar and (often) less accepting. This places added stress on all.
What can we do?
If you are a parent of an NLD child here are some suggestions:
- Prepare your “others”. If you are visiting someone or they are visiting you, tell them about your child ahead of time. Try to anticipate ways that your child may behave in ways that are unusual or irritating. That won’t make them less unusual or irritating, but at least people will be prepared.
- Prepare your NLDer. Many NLD people hate changes in routine but deal with them better if they are anticipated. So, tell your child, as precisely as possible, what will happen when. “On Tuesday we will wake up early to go to the airport. There will be lines. The flight may be crowded or delayed. It should last about 2 hours. Then we will visit Uncle Bill for 3 days. They live in a house that….” and so on.
- Give your child “outs”. Maybe your family likes to spend hours around the dinner table on a holiday. Your NLD child probably doesn’t. Forcing him or her to do so is a route to disaster. So, arrange ways he or she can avoid. A room he can go to when he’s done eating works well. This may take planning. Or, if you are planning many meals out, maybe leave your kid home for some of them (with appropriate supervision, of course!) A night of eating mac and cheese in front of the TV can be very nice.
- Avoid the worst others. Some people just don’t get it. Unfortunately, some of these people are our friends and relatives. So, if possible, avoid those people. Or, perhaps, keep your interactions with that person separate from your interactions with your kid.
Those are my suggestions, doubtless, you have others. So, share them in the comments and make this more useful for everyone.