November is upon us, with the crisp, Fall leaves finally changing colors here in Texas, and cool days interspersed with days reminding us of our very hot summer. November also brings the holidays, which have quickly descended upon us. They actually arrived the day after Halloween, when stores rushed to exhibit their elaborate Christmas displays, overlooking the fact that Thanksgiving actually comes BEFORE Christmas, Hannukah, and New Year’s. One holiday at a time, please!
As the frenzy of the season winds up, so do our kids. Between media blitzes of holiday ads, school events and holiday parties, and end-of-semester recitals, all of this overstimulation can really stir up sensory issues. Not to mention the change in routine brought about by vacation, and family visitors. You might expect to see some regressive behaviors, such as increased reactivity to benign requests to complete tasks such as, “It’s time to brush teeth.” or your child may display heightened sensitivity to noise (avoid the mall!), textures of clothing, or certain smells. He or she may not want to engage in social functions as might be expected at this time of year, and may seem either overly active or especially fatigued.
It will be important to try to keep routines as close to normal as possible, and maybe even to skip some events so you and your children can have some much-needed down time. If a visit with particular family members causes additional stress for the parents, you can bet your sensory kiddo will pick up on the family conflict and emotional strain. It’s okay to say, “No, a visit to Aunt Sally’s on Christmas Day just won’t work for our family this year.” Preserve the family rituals that you enjoy, and maintain the boundaries around those important rituals.
Above all, take time to savor and relish the time you have together as a family. Rather than focusing on the consumer aspect of the holidays, consider the small things that make your holiday great, whether it’s sitting by a fire, playing a family game, taking a walk, or just plain talking and getting to know each other again. And don’t forget that Thanksgiving comes first, giving all of us a chance to remember and express what we are most grateful for.
Your kids might enjoy this fun activity on Thanksgiving: each person writes down what they are thankful for on a small piece of paper, folds it up, and places it in a bowl. Before dinner while sitting around the table, you can draw the messages and have your guests try to guess who wrote it. My note will say: I’m most thankful for my family and friends, and the gift of parenting these precious children.