Reduce Your Stress and Enjoy Yourself More
The holidays are filled with excitement and joy. With all of the excitement comes the stress of juggling multiple holiday activities. While you may be excited, you also may be feeling stress from the unknown. Several questions may run through your mind: Will my child have a behavior problem? Will I get to enjoy myself? Or, will I spend the entire time worrying about my child’s behavior?
Here are a few simple strategies to help you get through the holidays, and even to enjoy them!
Set Your Expectations
Set your expectations for your child and for yourself. How long do you want to be at the holiday event? How long can your child really be there? We all have limits regardless of any disability. Expecting any child to behave and stay longer than they really can, will only lead to anxiety and stress on your part.
If it helps, call the host prior to the party and explain that you will attend, but only be for a certain time. This way, if and when you have to abruptly leave, the host will understand. And this can help reduce your anxiety and stress.
Prevention is key. This means not waiting for a problem to happen, but trying to prevent it from happening. It can be easier to prevent than to react in the heat of the moment. There are several things you can do to prepare yourself, your child, and your family for the a holiday event.
- Bring reinforcers (i.e., items that motivate your child’s good behavior, such as their favorite snacks or toys). If your child is on a token system, bring your token system. Having reinforcers available can help you to remember to praise good behavior. We often get distracted at parties and ignore children while they are being “good.” But if a child is going to continue to exhibit good behavior, she has to remain motivated. By having reinforcers available to present according to your child’s program, it is more likely that everyone will be happy and you will actually have more time to enjoy yourself.
- Bring games and activities that your child can do independently. Often, we expect children to be good, but a holiday party may not necessarily be child-friendly. This can make it difficult for you and your child to relax. If your child enjoys coloring, puzzles, or a particular game, bring it with you. Set your child in an area with her own space to play with her toys or an activity that she can do on her own. If you child only enjoys watching videos bring your iPad, etc. Give yourself the night to enjoy, and just let your child watch videos if that is going to reduce your stress. Every once in awhile, it’s ok.
- Reactive Strategies. Plan for the worst. You need to know before a holiday activity what you will do if a behavior problem occurs. Knowing the right response will reduce your stress level, even if it means leaving the holiday activity.
Ultimately, it is better to be over-prepared then overwhelmed. While the preparation may be stressful, you will feel relieved knowing that you have a plan. You may even be able to enjoy yourself knowing your strategies are in place, and they can buy you time to enjoy yourself — even if only for a short while.
We hope that you’ll find these tips helpful during the holiday season.