5 Tips to Help Your Autistic/ADHD Child with Change/Excitement Over Christmas
Updated: Dec 14, 2022
Christmas is full of heightened emotions, changes, sensory stimulation and the pressure to do, see and do some more.
Children can easily become overwhelmed with excitement which leads to meltdowns later on... this doesn't just apply to children but adults too. The difficulty for many people is seeing when things are becoming overwhelming and implementing some downtime before it happens.
Recognising that excitement is a heightened emotion and can very quickly turn into anxiety for many autistic people. Being in that state for a prolonged period can often be too much for your little one to handle... or again for an adult too. Children are fantastic at picking up adult emotions so the chances are if you are stressed/anxious, your child will feel that anxiety and which can then lead to them feeling overwhelmed.
Here are 5 tips to help support them through this period:
Plan the days so you know what times and where you are going, this way you can plan for sensory breaks and downtime to help alleviate the build-up of energy and overwhelm within the. Let your child know what you are doing and when... and try your hardest not to change those plans (sometimes easier said than done but the less sudden change the better they will cope).
Take noise-cancelling headphones with you for busy/noisy areas. These can also be used to lessen stimulation if there is a lot of visual activity... For example, going to see Christmas lights, usually, this involves a lot of noise. Using the headphones allows them to quieten one stimulation whilst accessing another.
Snacks, snacks and more snacks... and drinks. Ensuring they have access to something that can comfort them whilst they are out and about so hunger/thirst doesn't add to all the other sensory overwhelm.
Plan days off, days off from visitors, from going out and from doing. Speaking to people is overwhelming and exhausting. Aunty Margret asking your child if they are excited for Christmas or what they think Santa will bring is probably the 100th person that has asked them that question. They need time off without questions and without having to navigate other people and other people's expectations. Have a couple of movie days or afternoons and use the opportunity to give yourself some downtime.
Create a little den where they can go when things are too much, especially on Christmas Day and ensure all other members of the house know to allow your child space when they go to their den. Allow them to use it as and when they need it throughout the Christmas break and help them to acknowledge when things are getting too much. A den can be a calm, safe space with fidget toys, fairy lights, duvets, books, headphones and whatever makes them feel calm.
Last but not least, give yourself some space and self-care!! You need it just as much as they do. Recognise your needs and implement ways of looking after you.