Top Xmas tips from our Listening Ear team

4 mins read

Tuesday 6 December 2022

Tags: listening ear, christmas, xmas, tips, coping with stress, changes in routine

Christmas can bring about a variety of emotions. While many people look forward to it with excitement and joy, for families of disabled children it can be a tricky time to navigate.

This year, with the added challenges of rising living costs and underfunded public services, many families are feeling exhausted and overwhelmed as we head towards the end of the year.

So, our Listening Ear Team have some tips to help ensure you can take a breath over the festive period and enjoy the time with your families, instead of it becoming another stressful period.

Be proactive and realistic

If your child struggles with changes in routine and disruption, events that some children find fun at school in the run-up to Christmas – plays, pantos, carols, Christmas lunches – may create stress and anxiety.

Be proactive and work with their teachers. Talk about how they can ensure your child doesn’t become worried or overwhelmed. They can help your child access the things about Christmas they like and avoid the others.

If your child finds huge changes difficult or has issues with sensory regulation, try to ensure that the decorations at home are subtle and don’t cause any overstimulation.

Keep it simple

There is no point pretending that times aren’t tough for many people. Household budgets are stretched, and many families are feeling the pressure. When we think of Christmas, we often think of excess. But that can put huge pressure on families to provide an abundance of food, drink and presents.

It is worth remembering that spending huge amounts of money on presents that many people don’t really want or need, or on food that may be wasted, isn’t what is important. Many children find lots of brightly-wrapped presents overwhelming. They’ll often be happier with the food that they enjoy every day.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying treats, or foods that you don’t often buy, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. And it doesn’t have to cost lots more than you would usually spend.

Throw away the rule book

Christmas is a time of traditions, and many of those are imposed by society, family members or the media. There is a huge pressure to do what we think we should be doing, instead of what works for us.

If you’re a family with a disabled child or children, you are likely to have your own way of doing things for the rest of the year. So why try to conform during Christmas when you are supposed to be enjoying yourself?

If everyone wants to eat chips or pasta instead of turkey and all the trimmings, fine. If lots of presents and noise and colour will trigger meltdowns, then find another way to enjoy your day. It is completely up to you and your family to do what works for you.

If certain family members don’t understand that you need to tailor Christmas to suit your family’s needs, arrange to see them at another time.

More tips from our Listening Ear Family Support Consultants

“Try to stick to the same bedtimes and mealtimes as much as possible. Follow any specific routines you have on any other day of the year as closely as you can. Changes in routines can cause major challenges!”

“Prepare when visiting relatives and friends that your child will only be able to manage a limited time with. Make sure your child knows they can leave at any time if they feel overwhelmed.”

“We decorate our tree on Christmas Eve. That way, my daughter doesn’t get overwhelmed by weeks of lights and colour ahead of Christmas.”

“You may need to ensure that your child is physically tired enough. There is a lot of sitting around at Christmas and going to people’s houses and sitting around there too! With all the stimulation of everything else, making sure that everyone gets enough exercise is important!”

“Use visuals /objects of reference to show planned and unplanned changes”.

“Don’t sweat the small stuff. Go with the flow – relax and breathe!!!!”

Get in touch with our Listening Ear team

We all know that this time of year can be tough. So remember you can book a free, confidential call at the Listening Ear.

We offer 1-1 telephone appointments with a family support adviser for parent carers looking for reassurance and practical and emotional support.