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  • Laura L. Van Tassel, Esq.


For sole caregivers with special needs children the holidays can create a lot of extra stress. They can also be a source of stress the child due to travel plans, an uprooted schedule or too much stimulation.

Instead of letting stress ruin a time meant to be enjoyed there are ways for caregivers and their special needs child to step back and enjoy this time of year.


Set expectations:

Talk to family members ahead of time. Let them know what you and your child are comfortable with and explain that things make look a little different than they have in the past or what they’re used to.

Discuss your child’s specific needs. Ask them for their support and maybe give them a list of things they can do to support you.

Be sure to let them know that this will make the experience better for everyone.

Say No:

While most children live for the holiday season, it can be a stressful time for children with special needs. The disruption to their routine, unfamiliar sights and smells, and the house full of noise and people can all prove too much.

Whether you're celebrating Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, etc., the holidays are a wonderful time to reconnect with loved ones. However, it all depends on your family dynamics. Nothing adds to the stress of the holiday like conflicting expectations for managing behaviors. You know your family, your child, and yourself better than anyone. Remember, your child will pick up on your stress levels, so try not to over-stretch yourself.

Sometimes you have to say no to things. And that’s ok.

Just gently but firmly tell them what your plans are.

Take care of yourself:

Your number one concern is for your child, but you should also be sure to take care of yourself.

You may feel more isolated, especially around the holidays. Sometimes you must remind yourself that you aren’t the only one going through these challenges. Connecting with other co-parents of special needs children through Facebook groups or your local special needs community can not only be a huge comfort, but those who have been at this for a while may be able to offer considerable valuable advice.

Allow grandparents or others in your support network to provide care for your children so that you can indulge in some much-needed rest and restoration. This time for yourself may be as simple as a nap or a bubble bath, or it could be as decadent as a facial, massage, date with your significant other, or reading a great book/getting caught up on favorite television programs/movies. Make time for you. You work hard, and you deserve some replenishment.

Change your mindset:

Remember, you cannot control the challenges you and your child may have during the holidays, but you can control the environment around them. More importantly, you can change your behavior to ensure that you and your child have a fun, successful holiday season!

Mindset is everything. If you decide to stay at home, do small things with your child that you know will mean the most. Remember that the best memories are made when you least expect them. You can’t force great memories to happen. Do the best you can and enjoy your special time together. Remember that your special needs child is soaking up every minute of it.

Reach Out

Family matters are often emotionally charged and contentious during the holidays. At Van Tassel Law, I believe in a kinder approach to life's legal issues. My goal is to get you to a better place. If you need help with a family law matter, contact me today for a free consultation at (201) 664-8566

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