Skip to main content

Guilt-Free Holidays

I am not talking about sugar-free candy, no calorie cakes or eating your way through the holidays with celery and carrot sticks. I am talking about getting rid of the pressures we all put on ourselves to have wonderful, perfect holidays for our families and children. There are ways to make life simpler during this hectic time. Most of us avoid them because it may mean taking a risk and changing the way things have always been done (and our mother might yell.)

Here are some ideas that have worked for us:

Gifts – I know for our son, Ben, who has little interest in toys, finding presents for him to open during the holidays is a challenge. The little voice in my head keeps saying, “What will Ben open? What will Ben get excited about?” Changing our expectations of Ben being excited about gifts helped quite a bit.

We ask grandparents to pay for tickets to the circus, which unexpectedly has become a tradition. Some of the best gifts for Ben are movie passes and gift cards for ice cream. These gifts become a one-on-one time with Mom or Dad, which can be extra special too.  So we are patient, because Ben's face lights up when he sees the clowns at the circus, enters the parking lot at the movies or sits down in our local ice cream parlor.

Traditions - Create new traditions that work for your situation. Volunteer at a non-profit organization. You would be surprised how your child with special needs can help out, observe or just be a part of the hustle and bustle of holiday activity. Ben loves going places - so we go to McAdenville, a small town that lights up for the holiday season. We go on the "Polar Express" and holiday caroling with neighbors.

Foods – Your child may be on a special diet or allergic to certain foods or you might just have too much going on to cook a three course meal. An occassional holiday dinner delivered to your door in 30 minutes will be very memorable.

Change the Day – Sometimes you or a family member have to work on the exact date of the holiday or family cannot visit until the day after. Change the day – no one will know or care. Or if you have to work and need the extra day for traveling or cooking, change the day. When you look back at the photos, it will be the smiling faces that will matter, not the date on the calendar.

So this year, give yourself permission to do it differently, be imperfect and change it up. The most important thing is that you are with your family even if it is with frozen pizza, curlers in your hair and dirty dishes on the counter.
These are links to some great articles I found about stress, holidays and parenting:

10 Tips to Reduce Stress & Guilt

Take the Holidays in Stride

Enjoying the Holidays with an Autistic Child

Special Needs Siblings Have Special Needs, Too! (this last article is more about siblings of children with special needs. It is really good and I find myself thinking about how we interact at home in terms of this article's advice.)

BTW - This year, we are having a quiet Thanksgiving at home with just the five of us. And I am looking forward to pepperoni pizza for dinner and frozen apple pie for dessert, served on paper plates!


  1. Great ideas. Thanks! We've learned to alter OUR expectationas and we try to help the relatives. We just remember that we know him best and we know what makes him happy.

  2. Thanks for the feedback! After reading this entry, my mom bought Ben movie tickets for Christmas. You are right, change the expectations and everything goes smoother!


Post a Comment

Thank you for reading my post. I appreciate you taking the time to comment. If you wish to contact me directly, please let me know and I will email you.

Popular posts from this blog

Impromptu Pet Therapy

  Ben met Doodle today. One of the staff at his day program brought him in. Ben loves dogs and these photos made my day. 

Parenting an Adult Child with Disabilities

  "Parenting an Adult Child with Disabilities" is a series on eSpeciallyBen. As Ben approached 18, it was clear our role changed as parents. We needed to help Ben transition into adulthood. These stories are meant to assist other families who face, or will face, some of the same challenges. Talking About the Future Guest Post - Matt Wilson Legal Guardianship, Medicaid and SSI Researching Group Homes Questions to Ask at a Group Home Visit Referral Packet for Group Homes Getting Assistance from a Care Manager From Group Home Placement to Discharge Reaching for Independence

Parenting an Adult Child with Disabilities: Talking About the Future

Ben in the middle with Dad (left), Carla Payne with Aging Care Matters and Mom This is the first of several posts about parenting an adult child with a disability. Ben will be 19 this summer; I am learning along the way. As always, I hope to pass on resources and wisdom. Discuss the future.  If your adult child is able to participate in planning for their future, ask them how they envision it. Let them draw a picture. Ask them to tell you a story. Maybe they can sign a few words that mean a lot to them. Find a way to get them involved. How do they see themselves living? By themselves, in a group home, with another family or with a sibling? Where do they want to live? In another city, in an apartment, in a house? How far away do they want to live from family? What level of independence can they handle? Do they want someone to check in on them? Do they want to find a job? Do they need a job coach or supportive employment? Who will help them with their finances? Is there someone they tru