Like so many mommas, I am loving this cooler weather. The colder weather lends itself to more cozy times at home with the family. Though more indoor time at home as a family can be an opportunity for sweet memories, it can also lead to extra stress when our uniquely-wired kids begin to bounce off the walls. Just as the cooler weather offers opportunities both for fun and stress, the holiday season itself adds even more nuances of joy and chaos. That means if we are raising uniquely-wired kids, we need to be prepared with some mom holiday hacks .
Because many minds are way better than one, I reached out to my private AHFAS Facebook group to see what holiday hacks our moms had to share. Of course, they did not disappoint. We are in this together, Sweet Mommas, and we need one another’s wisdom to set our kids and ultimately, our entire families for the sweetest holiday season possible. We would love to have you join us. Click here to join this tribe of brave mommas.
Uniquely-Wired, Outside-the-Box Kids
The moms in the AHFAS private Facebook group are gifts to me and to one another. This community has come together beautifully sharing openly and honestly the highs and often brutal lows of parenting children with a variety of cognitive differences or behavioral issues. We are learning together that there is incredible hope and ways to raise our outside-the-box children so that they can thrive as the people God has created them to be. Join us here.
Diagnosis: Holiday Chaos (AKA Loss of Routines, Over-stimulation, & Lots of Junk Food)
How do some experienced mommas raising kids with special needs handle the holiday chaos? Let’s turn to them and capitalize on the Holiday Hacks that have saved them one or two kid (and momma) meltdowns throughout the years.
Holiday Hack for Moms #1: Less Clutter!!
I encourage (as much as I possibly can) fewer gifts. In fact we don’t give any gifts to our children because we don’t want to add more on top of what family already gives. Most gifts = more mess = more frustration!!
Holiday Hack for Moms #2: An Outside-the-Box Christmas
What I would say is think outside the box.. we go on a nice quiet family vacation every year for Christmas. (We try to go somewhere we’ve never been if we can). The holidays don’t have to be spent exactly like everyone else… we don’t all have to rearrange the house and put up trees and spend a fortune on things.. If you and your family absolutely love those things and it brings joy, do it. If that isn’t your thing, don’t! No need to feel any kind of guilt either way.. don’t be afraid to try out some new traditions that fit your family. It could be the best thing ever. My family thought I was a little nuts when I started thinking outside the box about holidays. Our kiddos say they like it the way it is and wouldn’t go back.
-Erica, Mom of two (one with dyslexia, anxiety & sensory processing issues)
Holiday Hack for Moms #3: Sticking to Nutrition Goals
I have my child on a strict no gluten, no dairy diet. So I just bring plenty of approved treats, with enough to share of course, and act like it’s no big thing. There are usually enough meal options so that I don’t worry about as much.
-Maggie (1 child with moderate non-verbal ASD) Maggie’s Fresh Kitchen
Holiday Hack for Moms #4: Think like a Boy Scout
Be like a boy scout and be prepared! Think ahead and try to get in front of as many possible situations as you can. The more prepared you are, the more calm you are likely to remain when something inevitably goes wrong.
-Amy, Mom of 4 (Cerebral Palsy, ADHD, Anxiety, SPD), Real Talk with Amy
Holiday Hack for Moms #5: Double Check All Itineraries
I learned the hard way to always ALWAYS double check the itinerary at any new or old town/city holiday festivities —and vacation outings. As well as to always travel with noise cancelling headphones.
It happened to us twice, when our oldest was 2 and again at 4. Once was during a tree lighting ceremony in a new town we had just moved to and at age four at Broadway at the Beach. Both places, fireworks went off and we had ZERO clue it was part of the evening’s agenda.
My oldest was my sensory avoider and he was a runner. We almost lost him both times into the crowd (and he was non-verbal!) He was only a few feet in front of us but at the sound of fireworks he turned into “Dash!” Pure fight/flight mode. Y’all, it was scary!
For the town Christmas tree lighting, the fireworks were being set off on top of the parking garage that we were parked in and every business was closed. We found him banging on doors to get in, to escape. Once we caught him, there was no escaping the terrifying sounds!! He and I both cried through it as I held him inside my winter coat as far as we could get away from them. It didn’t help the sound was bouncing off all the downtown buildings.l, echoing loudly. At Broadway at the Beach, thankfully we saw him run into a busy candy shop with doors open. We found him hiding behind a trash can. Luckily we stayed there, in a restroom till it was over.
He is 15 now, verbal, and can handle and enjoys fireworks! But not my middle son (11.) So no matter how many times we go to a familiar place or holiday festivity, we travel with noise canceling headphones and double check the itinerary!
– Alicia, Mom of 3 boys (2 biological and 1 adopted through the foster care system. ASD, SPD, RAD, Microcephaly, Mood Disorder, Shaken Baby Syndrome)
Holiday Hack #6: The Power of “No”
Be ok with saying no. If something doesn’t fit the needs of our family, we graciously decline—then celebrate in our own way. Sometimes we just decline because as parents we are too exhausted. We have become comfortable with only choosing what is best for us all.
Holiday Hack for Moms #7: One Thing a Day
Holiday hacks for my SPD kiddo… We only plan ONE THING A DAY. JUST ONE. However, we break our own rule on Christmas Eve but plan nothing the day before or after to cushion the overstimulation. My husband and I always explain the plan in advance. We write out the overview of the week, then every morning we go through the schedule with our kids. We pack familiar snacks. When we stay with family, we ask them to buy the same usual breakfast foods we eat at home. Practicing some family traditions at home is very important. For example, we all sing Christmas carols on Christmas Eve, so we pre-teach them a few songs so they feel prepared when we are with extended family.
-Stacy, (mom of 3- one with SPD) The Semi-Crunchy Mama
My Bonus Holiday Hack for Moms #8: Plan Kid Friendly Holiday Table Activities
Every year I make sure to fill the table time with activities to engage the whole family. I print out Thanksgiving Word Searches, Thankful-For Activities, Christmas Make-a-Words, and a variety of other activities that engage the family in shared activities. These simple activities are something that not only brings all of the ages together (we team up in pairs… grandparents and kids, etc), but also helps conversation flow for those kids who struggle socially. I created a mini-family dinner table holiday pack that you can access for free here. Thanksgiving and Christmas Word Scrambles and Make-a-Words. Super easy to print out and have simple family fun around the holiday table.
-Lindsay, (mom of three, 2 biological & 1 through adoption: Aspergers, FASD, ADHD, Anxiety) Our Adoption Story
God Chose You
Mom Friend, whether your child struggles with sensory issues, bounces off the walls when anxious, or simply needs the predictability of routine to self-regulate well, we can only do our best as moms. Don’t be afraid to say no to holiday commitments and make sure to give your family plenty of wiggle room as you schedule the months to come. God chose YOU to parent your child on purpose. Release the worry about what Aunt Betty thinks when you have to duck out early or take your child to another room to calm down. Trust in your role as your child’s mother and ask the Lord to lead you in the moments of anxiety this holiday season. Praying for you to be flooded with His peace and joy in even the chaos.
What about you? Do you have any hacks that may be useful to another momma? Comment below.