The Holidays

teen looking at phone

This has been a challenging year for most and the holidays are finally here. The holidays also bring time with members of our family we may not often see or talk to. When your family has a newly diagnosed child or someone with significant emotional or behavioral challenges, family members frequently don’t understand, or even agree with, what you know is wrong.

Holidays are easily stressful. While festive and fun, we also want to host or impress family or guests. This year our celebrations may be virtual but inevitably questions may come up about how your son or daughter are doing. Grandparents, aunts, or uncles may disagree with what you believe is a problem and instead think that you just need to discipline better or stop being so permissive. You may even have received a diagnosis of autism or a developmental disability that others think is wrong. Maybe you are still struggling to find answers all the while your family member is clearly different or obviously struggles in certain situations. Balancing all this stress while supposedly trying to relax and celebrate can easily lead to exhaustion and overwhelm.

It is certainly understandable that we want support and assistance especially when a child or family member has autism, ADHD, learning disorders, or another disability. However, the truth is that most people will not ever fully understand what is wrong and how best to assist your loved one and we will become even more stressed by trying to make them agree with what we believe is true.
To help manage the holidays, diagnosis, autism, ADHD, disabilities, family, outbursts, or anything else, here are a few suggestions:

  1. It is not necessary for family to agree or understand diagnoses for your relationship with them to be meaningful or for them to offer support. If you can, ask them to do something that would help such as sharing an activity or doing a task for you or your loved one.
  2. Try to connect with family on things where there is agreement or topics of shared interest even if they don’t agree with your child’s diagnosis or your parenting approach.
  3. Look for someone, maybe outside your family, with whom you can feel understood and supported when it comes to your child or family member with autism or other disorder. This could be a friend or neighbor. Remember to wish this other person Happy Holidays too.
  4. Remember it is not catastrophic if your child ends up watching a lot of videos or tv during the holidays so you can have meaningful conversations or do something for yourself for a few hours. Try to transition them gradually off their electronics when the time comes to reduce stress for all.
  5. Review or seek information that you feel is suitable and helpful for your child’s challenges. If this is a medical report with recommendations like from Emerge or elsewhere, or an article, or book, this could be a good time to reread it if you are feeling insecure about how you are how your child is progressing or behaving.
  6. Remember that disciplining is about learning not about punishing. While the family may insist that a child who misbehaves has consequences that are usually punitive, the important thing is that your child is learning which does not necessarily mean being punished.
  7. Punishment typically comes with negative side effects for you and your child including guilt and shame for many involved so seek to emphasize what to do rather than what not to do.
  8. Try to find things the whole family can do together even if such activities are unconventional. The important thing is to have fun and celebrate the loving bonds you share.

Hopefully, there are some ideas above that give you encouragement and hope! Happy holidays from your friends at Emerge.