5 Sensory Strategies for a Happy Holiday Season
Looking to reduce stress and create a joyful environment during the holidays for your child with sensory challenges? Check out this blog post for some tips!
Try your best to keep at least a portion of your child's routine consistent, even during the holidays. Routine helps children with sensory challenges remain regulated and organized when they are given the chance to understand the flow of their day and what events will occur. For example, 9am-morning routine, 10am-holiday sing-a-long with Santa, 11am-quiet time and sensory diet etc. This type of routine will set up your child for success when a fun holiday event is sandwiched between their typical routine. It's definitely encouraged to add in "fun" holiday activities into your child's routine; however, it's important to give them chances to follow parts of a normal routine around the new event to reorganize themselves throughout the day.
2. Set Expectations
There are lots of surprises, commotion and unexpected events during the holidays. Talk through these potential suprises and events with your child before the holiday event occurs to help reduce the risk of sensory meltdowns. For example, talk with your child about the people they may see at a party, the sounds they could hear, where the event is taking place etc. You can even discuss various sensory strategiees with your child that they can utilize in case any sensory triggers occurs. For example, if there are loud noises then they can ask for headphones, ear muffs or ear plugs. If they are running around and their body is not controlled, then a parent will pull the child aside to do some joint compressions etc.
3. Holiday Clothing
Wearing different clothing than a child is used to can sometimes be challenging to tactile sensitive kiddos. It's encouraged to "practice" wearing the outfits they will be required to wear prior to the holiday event. This allows time for the child to get acclimated with the texture or feeling of the clothes. Also, try to purchase a holiday outfit that supports your child's sensory needs. For example, if a child has a hard time tolerating "itchy" or "rough" textures, stick to cotton materials. If your child has a prefers loose clothing to tight clothing, have them wear a loose dress or skirt. Take out tags from clothing, if that bothers your child. If your child prefers softer materials, try washing the outfit a couple times before wearing. These are just examples but, may make a difference in their ability to tolerate certain clothing.
4. Give Breaks
Holiday parties and events can be lots of fun but, can also be lots of commotion! During an hour long party or event, try to give your sensory seeking and avoiding children at least 2-3 breaks away from the event to decompress and regulate their body. It may seem like your child is having a good time and nothing is bothering them; however, after sensory stimulating events, it's common for children with sensory needs to have meltdowns after the event is over due to the "come down" of sensory input. You can also try having auditorily sensitive kids wear headphones during these type of loud events to prevent sensitivities to sound.
5. Holiday Meals
This time of year is filled with get togethers, eating meals other people have prepared, and trying foods that may be out of our norm. For our "picky eaters", try following these tips to relieve some stress around mealtime during the holidays. It's important to remember that the holidays are supposed to be a fun and a relaxing time in your families lives! Try not to put too much stress on trying new foods and focus on adjusting your expectations towards what your child should be eating. The holidays are just a couple days in the grand scheme of life so, don't put too much pressure on getting them to try brand new foods and accomplish big feeding goals.
You can encourage them to try a little bit of a couple of the foods that have been made but, have at least 1-2 safe foods on hand that they will eat in case they refuse. In addition, allowing your child to be apart of the food making process can be a way for them to work on their sensory sensitivities without actually eating the food. If you know that there will be a certain type of food prepared at the event, try making the food ahead of time to have your child explore and possibly try beforehand.
kidSHINE. (2020, December 18). Sensory processing disorder- navigating the holiday season. https://www.kidshine-ot.com/post/sensory-processing-disorder-navigating-the-holiday-season#:~:text=As%20OTs%2C%20we%20often%20recommend,or%20a%20consistent%20bedtime%20routine.
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