This took me years to begin to understand anxiety during holidays and special occasions. If you’re a parent to a child with anxiety or if you suffer with anxiety yourself, you’ll understand. There have always been signs of anxiety in Mason especially during holidays and special occasions.
Some examples that I’ve seen his whole life; during egg hunts he starts running out but ends up only grabbing one and gets overwhelmed, the only ones he’s ever felt comfortable doing were at home or at a nursing home once where there was absolutely no rush. Pinatas should be fun right, well not for Mason this overwhelms and gets him worked up. Trick or treating another one that should be fun, it’s a hit or miss for him. He doesn’t go when he’s the only kid because “he’s embarrassed”, 90% of the time he ends up not wearing a costume because he complains he’s embarrassed, can’t breath in it, can’t see or something.
Now, it took me years to understand all of this and now he can communicate with us that he gets overwhelmed, embarrassed and doesn’t want to go. It really helps!
If this sounds familiar, let’s make sure our children don’t miss out on fun childhood memories. Below you’ll find ideas for helping your child and family enjoy all those holiday and special occasion activities.
Sensory Friendly Events/Activities
This is something we never tried with Mason but wish we had when he was a little younger, I honestly was always under the impression these were just for children with Autism. Sensory Friendly events and activities may have less stimulation and would be great for children with anxiety. We may try one for an Easter Egg Hunt this year.
Plan an Egg Hunt
Get a couple friends and/or family together and host an egg hunt, your child may do better in a smaller setting and with kids he knows.
Try a Nursing Home
They tend to be less stimulating, quieter and less of a crowd. Your child may feel safer trick or treating in a building with lights on instead of outside in the dark and less scary things.
Prime them, set a safe word and spot
Talk to them about what to expect, set up a safe word and spot they can use if they start to feel overwhelmed.
Help them get candy/eggs
In my honest opinion who’s it hurting if you help your child get a couple eggs at the hunt or a few pieces of candy from the pinata.
Have at Home
If it really is too much trouble to do a public event/activity, make it special at home.
Go trick or treating with a group of kids
If your child is like mine, maybe they’ll feel more comfortable with a group of kids, less frightening.
Be sure your child is dressed in appropriate clothing, they won’t be overheating, too cold, nothing scratchy and uncomfortable.
Don’t forget the tools they use when they are overwhelmed; fidget tools, weighted vest, noise canceling headphones, their comfort object. Mason almost never leaves the house without a hooded sweatshirt or vest even during the summer.
Open gifts at home
If it embarrasses them to open gifts in front of people, do it at home just make sure to thank everyone and if someone really wants to watch them open it, do it privately before the party ends.
These are some ideas to help your anxious child manage the holidays easier. Just remember you know your child best, pay attention to their cues, what they like and dislike. I’m just hoping some of these ideas will help your family fill more in control during the holidays and in return you’ll have a better experience!