Anyone who lives or works with kids with ASD knows how important routine can be to setting them up for success on a daily basis. Unfortunately, in 2020, routines and traditions have been difficult (and sometimes downright impossible) to maintain. The holidays aren’t going to be any different. Here are some tips for making the most of the atypical, holidays-at-home we’ll all be celebrating this year.
Tip 1: Take advantage of being home to keep some regular routines in place. One nice thing about being home for the holidays is that it gives families of kiddos with ASD a chance to celebrate the season without the large-scale disruptions to the daily routine that are unavoidable when, say, traveling to visit relatives. Try to find a balance between holiday-specific celebratory activities and stabilizing, tried and true pillars of your family’s daily routine to reduce the stress on a kid with autism.
Tip 2: Establish some new traditions. There’s a bright side to the way 2020 is forcing everyone to regroup when it comes to holiday plans: It’s a perfect chance to try out new traditions—and say goodbye to the ones that weren’t working for your family anyway. If there are holiday traditions that have always stressed your kiddo out, but that you’ve felt pressure to maintain, considering 2020 your chance for a clean slate. Find ways to celebrate the holidays that truly work for everyone in your family—and don’t be afraid to make them permanent replacements if you find that everyone seems way happier with, say, doing a holiday movie singalong at home rather than going caroling in the neighborhood.
Tip 3: Let go of perfection. Perfection is never a realistic goal, but especially not during the holidays and especially especially not when those holidays also involve juggling the special needs of a kid on the spectrum with all the other stresses of the season. Set realistic expectations for the holidays—or, better yet, set no expectations. If you go into the holidays with a truly open mind and open heart, you’ll be amazed at how much easier, happier, and less stressful life becomes. And less stress for mom and dad translates to less stress for everyone in the family.
Tip 4: Remember the rest of the family When there’s a kiddo with ASD involved, it’s natural for a lot of your focus to be on them and their needs. But, during the holidays especially, it’s important to make time (and mental and emotional space) for other family members too. While this is definitely a great time to experiment with the tradition lineup in your family, don’t automatically cut out traditions that mean the world to other family members just because they’re not great for your kiddo on the spectrum. Instead, be open and honest about the situation and look for ways to compromise if needed.
Tip 5: Remember yourself, too. When you’re a parent, putting your kids first is just part of the job. But remember that, in order to be the best possible parent to your kiddo, you need to make time to take care of yourself too. This holiday season, be sure to give yourself the gift of self-compassion and kindness and don’t feel guilty if you need to take a moment (or several moments) for yourself.