Perhaps I’m alone in my feelings, but just in case, I thought I would put this out there.
All of my life, I’ve always loved the holidays.
I loved seeing family and friends that I haven’t seen in awhile. I loved the atmosphere and feeling of togetherness. I was also quite fond of all the lights, sounds and smells that come with the holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Now I have a family, a special needs family and everything has changed, at least for me.
You see, all the things that I loved so dearly about the holidays, my family can’t cope with. The reason for this is that my wife and all three of our boys are all on the #Autism spectrum.
Basically, the holidays, in the more traditional form, are an all out assault on their senses. The lights, sounds, smells and crowds of people lead to sensory overload. This in turn leads to an innate need to purge, otherwise known as a meltdown, not to be confused with a tantrum.
It never fails that no matter how hard we try to minimize exposure to things that could be considered overstimulating, it just never works.
This really takes most of the pleasure out of the holidays.
I mean, how fun can it be if everyone is miserable?
The only thing we have found that works is avoidance. Avoidance is the actual of avoiding the holidays. You can also think of it as running away but that makes it sound worse than what it is.
What we really try to do is keep the excitement to a minimum.
We don’t decorate with bright lights. We use an artificial Christmas tree to avoid the migraine inducing smell of pine.
Last but not least, we try to avoid going anywhere, especially if it will be loud or crowded.
We disguise the fact that we are avoiding the holidays by saying that we are starting new traditions. However, the truth is, we’re just avoiding the side effects of everything festive.
Our success tends to vary from moderate to complete failure.
How do you handle the holidays in your family?
Holidays do not have to be about traditional cultural decorations. Bright lights, reflective decorations, busy papers, scents are not necessary. Pick two calm colors to decorate with, such as soft green and white or soft blue and light purple. Insist that nothing out side that scheme be used. It will be calm and orderly. It will look sophisticated, and minimize intrusive questions. Use only lights in one muted color (blue or green), and don’t let them flash. If wrapping paper being torn is irritating, use soft fabric to wrap gifts. Limit holiday meal items to four favorites: easy to keep separate on plates and easier to manage preparation. Look at every tradition you remember loving, pull out the thread you loved about it, and rework it in a way that works for your family. Be creative in seeking out simple, clear ways to signify the holidays. Everything you do should draw you closer to your family. Don’t mourn what you can’t do. Look for ways to get the same warm feeling in a way that will encourage openness and closeness for your family. It is not easy to come up with what works, but through trial and error it is possible.
Sounds like the family needs a trip to a wooded area. I would suggest finding someplace out in the country (if you can get that far), going to an open field or park in the middle of nowhere, and have everyone just run around yelling, screaming, jumping, etc. It can be very cathartic and allows all of you to have a meltdown about whatever you want without feeling like you have to suppress it.
I understand….we try to keep things simple and as consistent year to year as possible. The stress of everyday is enough…throw 2 big family holidays within one month and it’s a time for stepping back. People will understand or they won’t…I’ve learned to let that go. Wishing you as much peace as possible!! Love your blog!!
You say you’re creating new traditions- why not start now? Instead of having a big feast for thanksgiving, for example, involve your kids in the making of a special pie or something small. Eat what you know you all like, and just be grateful you have each other. 🙂 My mom was never much of a holiday person, so as I grew older I started to make my own traditions. $1 party decorations and lots of baking, along with charlie brown movies. That’s my holiday for ya. But i love it because I made it my own.
Christmas? Start with everyone making their own hand made decorations…There’s a ton of ideas around online, especially if you look up ‘sensory friendly’ ideas. Lots of things that should be inexpensive too. Just shooting off ideas here. I personally can’t stand a lot of scents without getting a migraine myself, but when I find that ‘one’ scent that I can stand, I buy a candle or an oil warmer of that scent. Aromatherapy is very soothing sometimes.
Best of luck you guys. <3 You can do it~
@Silachan great ideas. That’s exactly what we try to do. Make our own special traditions that are fun for everyone without being overwhelming.
You are not alone. We r lucky that we can have the lights and sounds, but only for so long. It’s hard for extended family to realize that what was soooo important to them as kids just doesn’t matter to our son.
@Mary Franzen Costello it’s hard for people to understand what they aren’t experiencing.
Thomas Kinkade is evil and has much to answer for. In our dreams we walk down snow covered streets hand in hand with the preachers son as we sing carols to ginderbread houses on our way to midnight mass and families gathered together in front of the fire sipping hot cider and reading Dickens on more time.
Meh,., my pizzas pepperoni are cut like christmass trees.
@wyrdpookaone that is priceless. 🙂
I needed that. Thank you. 🙂
Holidays here aren’t nearly as much fun as they used to be either. I still take my son to family parties but now instead of visiting they are spent with him finding a place to run back and forth… and me trying to make sure he doesn’t break anything / run into anybody… I’m not completely ready to give up on them yet but the visits are shorter and much more stressful.
@Amy trust me, I know the feeling.