Enjoy Your Holiday with Your Special Needs Child
Enjoy Your Holiday with Your Special Needs Child
The decorations are perfect, the presents look magical, and the entire family is smiling and relaxed. That’s how the holidays are portrayed in media and advertising, but it’s not the reality for families with special needs children.
The holidays often become trials for parents like us, marred by guilt, resentment and stress. They are something to “survive” or “manage”, with little enjoyment expected.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way. With planning, realistic expectations and a positive attitude, you can reduce holiday stress and actually enjoy this time with your family.
You may feel sad, depressed or even jealous of others during the holidays. There may be times when you secretly wish your child was “normal” and could participate in regular holiday events and activities.
The first thing to remember is that these kinds of thoughts and feelings are perfectly normal. You didn’t plan on having a child with special needs. Nobody does. So, it doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad parent – it just means that you’re human.
And you’re certainly not alone; the holiday blues are a common problem. Many people hit by the extra financial and time stress, physical fatigue and family pressures feel depressed at this time of the year.
Add in the extra responsibilities facing a family with a special needs child – is it any wonder you might be feeling down?
But, don’t forget, there is always somebody worse off than you. Remember your blessings and remember who you are.
It’s very easy to allow the all-encompassing challenge of a special needs child to define you and the rest of your life.
Like any parent, much of your life is centered on your child or children, but you’re still the same person inside. If anything, you are an even stronger and better person for having stepped up to the challenges of life with a special child.
Your friends and family don’t like or love you less. In fact, they probably admire and respect you more than ever after seeing how difficult it can be to raise a child with a disability.
Don’t shut these people out of your life, and don’t shut yourself in. Reach out and you’ll find many hands waiting to take yours, particularly around the holidays.
There’s no shame in accepting empathy and extra support. Not only can it help you enjoy the holidays more, but also letting others assist you will make them feel good and allow them to live out the true holiday spirit.
Nobody loses and everybody wins.
So, when family and good friends ask you what they should get you for a holiday gift, do yourself a huge favor and ask for a few hours of “me time” to refresh and recharge yourself.
Many people have time off from work and are full of the giving spirit, making this the perfect time of year to request that personal break.
Go to a party. Go to a game or shop with friends. Go on a “date” with your partner and talk about something other than the children! After all, the idea is to enjoy the holidays.
Some people seem to think that having a child with special needs means you must always be overwhelmed and sad. It’s bad enough when other people try to impose that thinking on you, but it’s even worse when you do it to yourself and start feeling guilty for having a good time over the holidays.
Actually, a bit of enjoyment is good for you and, believe it or not, good for your child! In any family, parents who take care of themselves – physically and emotionally – are better able to take care of their children. So, don’t go where you will feel uncomfortable; go where you and your family will be accepted and have a nice time.
All parents have the right to decide what holiday events to attend or host based on their family’s needs, regardless of what relatives, friends, neighbors or anyone else thinks. If nobody else gets it, pat yourself on the back anyway.
Day in and day out, you are taking care of your child, meeting their daily and personal needs with care and love. You deserve a medal for the heroic things you do on a daily basis. Nobody’s perfect, but you’re pretty great!
So, ring out the old year and bring in the new one on a positive note. Raise a glass of bubbly (or, just as likely, ginger ale!) and make a toast to your family – “Our best times are still ahead!”
FREE DOWNLOAD: PSN Holiday Tip Guide
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This post originally appeared on our November/December 2014 Magazine