Simple Holidays: Keeping Them Fun and Easy
A Hart Family Holiday
Nickole talks honestly about:
• Keeping the holidays fun and easy,
• How she handles it all and
• Just what being a military family really means
Keeping the holidays fun and easy, A Hart Family Holiday
How do you handle the holidays?
We don’t necessarily go to a lot of places because it’s hard for the children to adjust so we spend a lot of time appreciating the Christmas holiday with stories and crafts.
We like to get ahead of potential meltdowns by:
● Video Chatting. We Facetime with daddy and extended family so that the kids can maintain relationships. When the holidays come around the established connections help them be less overwhelmed.
● Prepping. Coaching the kids and providing a visual/written schedule ahead of time of what to expect at an event or with others.
● Having Minimal Decor. The kids often bring out decorations with me. We start early and do it in mini stages while talking through it. They adapt to the change easier when included in the process.
● Avoiding Large Gatherings. Crowds are pure sensory overload. If we do attend, we try to arrive early, letting the crowd fill in around us. To dampen noise we bring headphones, a tablet for entertainment, and we try to bring our wagon that creates a safe, quiet place to hang out and also allows for a quick escape if necessary.
● Wearing Comfortable Clothing. A sense of comfort is offered through clothes so we don’t dress our kids in clothes that deviate much from their typical, especially in terms of fabric and fit. This is especially true when we are going to an event.
●Limiting Gifts: We gift a lot of sensory toys and products throughout the year but at Christmas, with the (almost 4) kids, the the kids know to expect that each person gets 4 gifts
We are also really big on making our own traditions that work for our family:
When my husband is deployed we send him supplies to “make his own” as a way to help him feel connected to our traditions.
● Want, Need, Wear, Read: Each child gets four gifts a year, something they want, something they need (usually something that has therapeutic value), something to wear (a new outfit), and something to read.
● Felt Christmas tree: In the playroom, we like to decorate a felt Christmas tree together each year with Velcro ornaments. The kids can interact with it as much as they want. Then we invite them to help with the regular Christmas tree if they are interested.
● Christmas Lights Drive: At night, we love driving around to see all the different houses lit up. Sometimes we find an event that we can walk through (and have the kids bundled up in their wagon) but tend to stay in the comfort of our vehicle.
Related: Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt
How she handles it all, Nickole’s Tips and Advice
How do you do it all?
● Obnoxiously large planner
● Saved phone numbers
● Pick and choose battles
● Short To Do List
What Parenting reminder are you currently using for yourself?
Some messages you receive as a special needs partner are hard to hear – Channel energy to put as much good into the world. Build connections with other adults and assist where you can – one day you may need a helping hand.
What advice would you give another special needs parent?
For any Parent with special needs children – Admit you can’t do it all – pick your battles, ask for help – you don’t have to do it all. For the Military Mom with special needs children – Forgive yourselves!
What resources have you found helpful?
With my daughter’s diagnosis I’m a board member for the foundation for her diagnosis in the US where I’ve built an awesome community of parents. There is also a nonprofit, Exceptional Families of the Military that helps families find support and resources in their specific areas.
What inspires you?
My Kids. I’m a far better person because of my children.
1. My oldest Sean, taught me to look beyond the surface and appreciate everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses.
2. My daughter Taryn taught me to trust my gut, that I have a voice, I can use it, and it matters.
3. My youngest Finn taught me to relax, that I don’t need to constantly look for red flags and worry all the time.
4. Baby number 4, no doubt, will teach me a powerful lesson too.
What does “Me Time” look like for you?
The kids have a 7:30 bedtime routine. After that I typically tackle my “Short List,” cleaning and tidying up for no more than 10 minutes. “What gets done, gets done, what doesn’t, doesn’t.” Then my “Me Time”/Vegetation session can begin with an ice cream cone and a show. Netflix repeats are a common choice but usually, I opt for one of my old time favorites like Grey’s Anatomy or SVU.
Just what being a military family really means, The Hart’s Story
How it Started
Nickole’s husband wasn’t always in the military. It wasn’t until after their son Sean was diagnosed with Autism that they made the joint decision to join the Navy so that Sean could have access to the medical benefits his diagnosis requires. They immediately joined the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) that works with other military and civilian agencies to provide comprehensive and coordinated community support, housing, educational, medical, and personnel services to Families with special needs. This program ensures that no matter where the Hart family is stationed, Sean can continue receiving the health care he needs.
This program became doubly important when their daughter Taryn was also given an Autism diagnosis. Nickole already had a lot of knowledge in this area and knew the signs of autism Taryn could receive, but her “Mommy Gut” told her something more was going on so she immediately began the search for a specialty doctor – which can be extra challenging because military specialty doctors are far and few between.
Blood tests were soon ordered to test their genes. Nickole and her husband were anxious to get their blood test done, as deployment had been moved up a week and would be gone for 9-months. They were able to get it done in time, but when the time came to receive the results, Nickole had to take that call by herself. As many military wives and mother may know, it’s moments like these that are the toughest – getting hard news, and then having to tell your on-duty partner, who is hundreds of miles away and can’t do anything about it.
It was one of the hardest phone calls Nickole has ever made, telling her husband that their daughter was diagnosed with CASK, a gene disorder. CASK-related disorders are a group of genetic disorders that affect brain development. The two main related disorders include microcephaly with pontine and cerebellar hypoplasia (MICPCH) and X-linked intellectual disability (XL-ID) with or without nystagmus.
During one of the hardest times in Nickole’s life, she was not alone. A newly found friendship became a major support system through it all. Not only was she a huge comfort to Nickole as she processed the news, but she provided an extra hand around the house, supported in parenting tasks and helped make holidays wonderful for the kids.
“A plus of being a military family is you often find people to be in your village to support you. Some people are going through the same things
you are going through.” – Nickole Hart
Each person’s journey with special needs is different but the one share truth is that we are different people than we were before the journey began. But Nickole put it so well, “It hasn’t been an easy road but it’s one I wouldn’t change.”
Happy Holidays to all!
You May Also Like
- Holiday Help Things I Found to Be Helpful!
- Happy Holidays How to Make a Video Holiday Card
- Gifting Holidays: Overcoming Challenges and Promoting Enjoyment
- ‘Tis the Season’ How Do Parents Cope and What Can You Do to Help Your Child?
- Keep the Holidays Happy: The Do’s and Don’ts for Talking with Family and Friends
- It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year… Or Is It?
- Teaching Gratitude How to Teach Your Child Thankfulness
- Relative Remarks!
- Managing Holiday Stress for You and Your Family
- Surviving the Holidays
- 8 Tips to prepare your family members with special needs for the Holiday Season?
- Socialize Successfully: A Few Simple Tips to Help You During the Holiday Season
- Thanksgiving: A Perfect Time to Learn How to Set the Table
- 100 + “Mom Approved” Gifts for Kids with Special Needs
- 18 “Mom Approved” Gifts for Kids/Teens with Special Needs
This post originally appeared on our November/December 2022 Magazine