How to Avoid Holiday Kid-Catastrophes

We all have routines that we like and seem to thrive on. Get up, drink coffee, pray, exercise, shower, eat breakfast, look at the news, begin work, etc. Chosen routines help you feel content and more peaceful. God help the person who might keep you from getting that java or shower!

Breaks in the familiar are magnified for special needs children and kids from trauma backgrounds. Holidays, vacations, parties, and illnesses can cause emotional upheaval and disruption similar to how you feel when your routine is fractured, only much worse.

Our special kids may not have the internal regulation or understanding that assures them that life will return to normal in time. Put yourself in their place when you think things through.

These kids need structure to feel safe. Parties and holiday breaks may sound fun, but the feelings that they generate may be scary. My advice:

1. Keep things simple in decorating and planning. And is your idea of a “terrific trip” suitable for what they can handle?

2. If you want to go all-out on something, make sure your child is insulated from it, or your all-out will result in fall-out. (Is it worth it?)

2. Gifts should be few and keyed specifically to the child.

3. The fewer multiple strangers around, the better.

4. Plan ahead. Have a “buddy” for your child. Make it someone the child knows, and who will stick with them during an event. A spouse or mature sibling could do it for thirty or forty-five minutes, then have the next person assigned relieve them so that there is a rotation, and nobody gets burned out.

5. Where/who is your backup? I remember writing in Chasing Lilly about a time that we took Lilly out of state, and almost didn’t get her back home, because she went completely ballistic at a rest stop. What would we have done if she had taken off and been picked up by a stranger before we could have found her?

6. Prep your special needs kids, but don’t talk about an event too much beforehand, as that increases anxiety.

7. Realize that there may be a fixed internal clock that is triggered by certain events and times of the year. If a child is new to your home, tip-toe through these until you know your child better. There is no trip or party worth tearing up your family.

8. And lastly, I might get some objections to this, but expect your verbal child to say thank you for gifts. One Christmas, Lilly received a very nice gift from a family member. When she opened it, she rudely said that she didn’t want it. They offered to return it and get something else, but I handed the gift to them and said, “No. She has been rude to you and is not thankful. Return it and go out to eat with the money.” Lilly realized her loss, and she was more appreciative of gifts given to her after that.

Peace and joy to you, Nealie



  1. SHERREE says:

    Thank-you for the insight and knowledge about this. As one who has only been exposed to these children it gives me more understanding into what may be going on inside of them. I recommend any subscribers with special needs children to introduce this blog to your family members so they might learn and read about your child and their needs. This particular subject would be a good intro. Family support and understanding is important, especially this time of year!

Comments are closed.