Holiday Special; Coloring Outside the Lines
Updated: Dec 15, 2021
Living with someone on the Autism Spectrum during the holiday season is much like BonJovi's song Living on a Prayer. You just never know what to expect or even how to prepare. A change in schedule, visiting with family members (crowds), dress-up clothes and fancy foods all at once is a melt down waiting to happen. We want our family and friends to see the growth and the beauty in our children just like they do in our neurotypical children but its impossible if our exceptional kids can't regulate with so many changes in the holiday.
My son is 18 years old, so I have had a ton of different holiday experiences. So here is one big rule to follow...
Let it go and let it be.
Letting go of your expectations, the expectations of others and tune out those expectations that others have of you and your family. You feel some pressure from others repeat after me...Autism doesn't take a holiday. It really doesn't.
How did we find our happy holidays?
We created our own set of rules, our own traditions. Sure it took us 14 years to figure it out but we changed how we spent our holidays and we are better for it. Really...best feeling ever.
We found something we all liked and created a whole event around that. For my family, it's food. Big crazy dinners. Now, my husband and I spend time researching recipes, negotiating sides and finalizing plans (even been known to order ingredients not found here). The production is about the food, the unwrapping of the meal.
If your family loves movies then make it about the movies. If its the lights or decorations, make it about that. There are NO set rules, no laws to follow and no price tag necessary just excitement about the new tradition. A tradition with less drama for the mama.
Parenting through guilt does not work for anyone. If you find yourself saying "I feel bad because..." "this is not how we used to do it" take a moment to reframe and remind yourself that the holidays are about so much more. If you have other children and you are struggling to find the balance try asking THEM how they would like to celebrate the season. For the record, FORCED FAMILY FUN isn't really fun at all.
We aren't the norm, we don't need constant reminders of that but we do deserve a happy holiday, too.