It is that time of the year. Depending on which part of the world you are from, you either celebrated your big holiday and new year such as Diwali in India, or you are yet preparing your taste buds for all the flavors of Christmas, say somewhere in Europe. Well, sensory kids don’t really care about borders and some don’t care for the social conventions. But most of us still do. How to still celebrate holidays without stressing out your own child? To answer that question, let’s briefly discuss why our sensory kids become more “disregulated” during the holiday season.
No matter which holiday you would like to celebrate, mostly all of them involve bright lights, different foods that are mostly not eaten throughout the year, having guests over or going to other people’s homes to celebrate (social gatherings) and music. The point is not to avoid these situations, but to make it possible for your child to enjoy them. You probably already know very well what your child’s sensory needs are, but if you are new to this whole sensory world, try to see what is that your child adores and practically hates. For example: your child loves to jump all day, walk on cushions, run, adores your bear hugs, throws himself on the couch, cushions or mats, or “accidentaly” bumps into other people and kids? If these are true for your child, then he/she might be hyposensitive to proprioceptive stimuli which means his/her brain is asking for more of that kind of stimuli. So, according to your child’s sensory needs, you can plan your holidays.
Things you can do at home:
Lights and decoration: if your child is hypersensitive to light, you may want to either start using more lights in the house a while in advance or use dim lights, follow your child’s reactions and adjust accordingly. If you plan a Christmas tree, see if lights are necessary. If they are, perhaps don’t have them on the blinking mode. And try using a color scheme for your lights and decoration that is more soothing and pleasant for your child. Perhaps bright white is a bit overwhelming, but a deep green is more relaxing.
Food: if your child is not keen on trying new flavors, textures etc. see if you can prepare a separate well known meal just for your child. With all the other stimulation coming from the holiday fun, perhaps this one thing that means a lot to your little one can stay regular. If you would still like to give your cranberry sauce a shot with your child make it in a way you know your child would prefer: certain texture, in a certain bowl, with some other ingredient they like.
Music: Holiday songs are a big part of the atmosphere builder, but for the sensory kids it can be a deal breaker, too. Not only do we play Christmas carols on the CD player, but we enjoy the sing-along as well. Introduce your child with these songs ahead of time and start with low volume if necessary. See your child’s reactions, perhaps he/she might enjoy a few songs, but those other ones might throw him off.
For all of these, I suggest you try the novelties out for the first time when your child is at his/her best in terms of regulation. Perhaps, a good time would be during or after a nice sensory play. In those moments, your child is likely to be regulated, thus more up for trying something new, something that is out of the routine or something that is not in their list of preferences. Feel free to have more of good quality sensory time during the holidays or prepare a sensory kit that your child will carry around with him/her to use in times of disregulation. Unless you already have, prepare a room or part of the room in a sensory way for your child to go to when necessary.