Our child mostly lives in a bubble. A see-through bubble, sure, but one that protects her from much of her surroundings. Or in theory that’s how we’d like it to work.
Like another ASD blogger, Jane from Almost Jane, wrote recently, we spend much of our time trying to stop the impact of anxiety on our child, before it happens. We protect, we cushion, we try and prepare and anticipate all possible outcomes. We minimise the opportunities for stress on our child, often inducing huge amounts of it on ourselves.
It’s like trying to predict the weather, in Melbourne, a year in advance. Impossible. And guaranteed, it will be the ONE thing you don’t think of that will end up popping the bubble.
It’s the time of year, when all our best laid plans go out the window. There’s family events, catch ups with friends, end of year break-ups, change that we simply can’t stop because it marks the passing of another year. A tree comes into the house, traditions alter our normal behaviours and expectations of socialising are at an all time high.
Even things that we would normally try to minimise, such as trips to the shops, are now almost unavoidable and more stressful than ever, jostling for space with thousands of other shoppers.
And once you’re there, don’t even talk about the flashing lights, the decorations, the music… I don’t have sensory processing disorder, but after a morning in the city, I feel like climbing into a cave and not coming out until after Easter.
With all this in mind, I thought I’d jot down a few tips on how we survive the crazy festive season…
- Lower your expectations. There I said it. Stop expecting your kid will sit on Santa’s knee, want to hang the baubles on the tree and love every Christmas catch up with friends. Even with the world’s best social story, it may not happen. If you expect a little, you’ll likely be rewarded with a lot.
- You can say no. This idea that we ‘need to catch up before Christmas’ is such a false deadline. It’s fine to push back and arrange things for early in the new year, or you know, not at all. Don’t feel pressured into doing a million social activities just because the big man in red is on his way.
- Prep the family. It’s the time of year when you’re likely to see relatives you don’t see often, and it’s even more likely there will be at least one that doesn’t ‘get’ your kid. Set some ground rules for them, explain you’ll be needing to leave early, or come late, or that your child might need a quiet space and doesn’t want to be kissed by Aunty Maureen. Do this in an email before you arrive, or get a trusted relative on the case, so there is no issues when you get there.
- Compromise is key. We just did the Christmas windows and Santa with Poss. I really wanted to line up and wait, she did not. So we didn’t. Instead we went to look at Minecraft Lego. It wasn’t my idea of fun, but the pay off was that she was then ok to do the Santa picture. So a bit of compromise, and we both felt like winners.
- Be prepared. Pack yourself a little survival kit… some chew and fidget toys, a favourite snack and a drink bottle from home. Write your number on your child’s wrist with permanent marker if you’re hitting the shops (or invest in a GPS tracker which we just did – amazing peace of mind!).
Finally, trust your gut. It’s your family and your child; they have to come first. So if they’re not coping, you can leave. It’s ok. I give you permission (not that you need it) to just take them out of the environment. Everyone will just have to get over it.
Oh and wine. Wine is ok. For you, not the kids, obviously. So is cancelling everything and just calling it a doona day.
What have I missed? How do you make sure that you all don’t lose your mind at this time of year?