December can be a month of panic for many. Rushing to buy the must have gifts, panicking about money, stress of parties and kids nativities and Googling how long it takes to defrost a turkey! 

Add into that mix a child or children with extra support needs and it seems many parents are really struggling. 

Here are the top three concerns parents have expressed to me about surviving December and some tips that may help. 

  1. ‘Help! My child can’t cope with all the changes in December and their behaviour becomes very challenging!’ 

I understand this one so much! Both of my children are on the autism spectrum and find change very difficult to cope with. My biggest tip here is to AVOID changing anything if you can. Your child will face so many changes at school so if you can possibly keep home life as ‘normal’ as possible this really helps children to understand that while some things are changing life is still ok. For my family, and many others, this means minimal or no Christmas decorations, less family around and no change to bedtime. While this can be restrictive for siblings it is so helpful to any child who needs to know that tomorrow there will be things they can trust to be stable and secure in a month that throws so much confusion at them daily. Be patient when your child is reacting to changes and give them quiet places to unwind away from social stress and noise if at all possible. 

  1. My child is not social. How do I get through the party and social events around Christmas time?’

If there is one time a year when it is expected of everyone to be social it seems to be Christmas! The pressure this puts on some people is huge. My advice here is to explain to family that your child is not rude but that they really enjoy time on their own too and this is not a bad thing. I find my children cope socially much better when the environment is structured and planned so if family are coming I have visual schedules with times for when they arrive and leave and what activities are happening. Free chit-chat is not something some children cope with so having a box game with rules or a simple party game of pass the parcel is something my children can join in with before returning to their technology or their rooms. Prepare everyone, have realistic expectations and let your child control some aspects if needed (like the music for a game etc.) to help them feel a part of it all. For parties outside of the home give your child a choice if possible, and if not give them a clock so they know when they will be leaving. Small technology and earphones are lifesavers too. 

  1. ‘My child gets overexcited about Christmas and is unable to wait. They become hyper with it all.’

For some the traditional advent countdown is far too long. 24 days can feel like an absolute eternity to a child so break it down where you can. A countdown to the school nativity play, or a countdown to the pantomime could be much shorter and manageable. Also having something daily to visually count down with, numbers that can be scored off rather than doors that open can be much easier to understand for some children. Sometimes over excitability is due to over stimulation so making a calendar of events and breaking them down so that the tree goes up on a day when there is nothing else happening or the nativity play at school is a day when you keep all other Christmas events at bay so that the focus is on just one event at a time can help. Not decorating the house too soon and not having temptation staring them in the face by having wrapped gifts under the tree for days on end can help too. December is a huge, exciting month though, so be prepared for your child to be over emotional, hyper or cheeky due to this at times. Be as calm as you can, keep routine where possible and enjoy the happiness as much as possible.

Be kind to yourself and try not to panic. It is a very busy month but you will get through it. There may be moments you wonder if you will have any hair left by Boxing Day but that’s ok...shampoo and hair colouring is sure to be on offer in the January sales!

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