If you’re like most parents, you have a love/hate with your kid’s LONG holiday break from school. On one hand, it’s nice to have a break from the rushed mornings and stressful evenings working on homework. On the other hand, it’s a lot of time to fill with things to keep them busy. And it’s even harder if you work and have to make plans for childcare.
Overall, while we love the holidays and all the special memories we create, they undoubtedly bring extra stress and when you’re a parent of a child with special needs, that’s the absolute last thing you need.
We can’t promise we have ALL the answers but we’re here to provide some helpful (hopefully!) tips for surviving your children’s break from school.
1) Stick to some sort of routine.
Many children with sensory issues or autism struggle with changes in routine. It can cause them to feel disorganized and become overstimulated which can lead to sensory seeking/avoiding behaviors and cause more meltdowns.
Both of you will suffer the consequences if you don’t adhere to some sort of schedule, even though they’re not in school. We’re not saying it needs to be as rigorous as a school day schedule but setting some sort of plan for each day will be helpful for both of you.
2) Use visual schedules.
Your kids are pretty used to their daily school routine by now but when it comes to setting your new “holiday break routine”, it may be helpful for children with autism or speech delays to give them a visual schedule to manage their expectations for the day.
3) Plan activities that subtly work on things they’re working on in therapy.
Examples may include: A trip to the park to work on gross motor activities and core strength, play dates with friends to work on social skills, going grocery shopping to work on elopement or playing at home with toys that have therapeutic benefits IE - play dough, Legos, coloring or painting.
We often hear from parents that it seems virtually impossible to work on things outside of therapy so take advantage of the extra time with your children, if you have it.
4) Plan respite time for yourself.
While it’s great to have more time with your children at home, it can also be stressful, especially if you have a child with behavioral challenges and developmental delays. So, just like your child is getting a break from school, give yourself a break. Whether your kids spend some one on one time with your husband, a family member or a trusted babysitter, plan some time for YOU. We can’t emphasize the importance of self care enough.
5) Plan a big treat or activity for your children at the end of the holiday.
This can be used as a way to remind your children to behave throughout the holidays and also give them something to look forward to. Make it something really appealing and something they have to “earn” by behaving nicely, doing their chores or whatever it is (within reason) you’d like them to accomplish over the holidays.
If your child responds well to visuals, you can even print out pictures of whatever it is you're going to do to help remind them of what they have to look forward to and why they need to behave.