The holidays are a wonderful time of year, but they can also be overwhelming for sensory-sensitive kids. Between the hustle and bustle of holiday parties and the assault of lights, sounds, and smells, it’s no wonder your little one is overwhelmed. But there are ways to help your child enjoy the holidays without getting overloaded. Here are five tips for a sensory-friendly holiday season.
- Take a break from the festivities. If your child is starting to look overwhelmed or uncomfortable, it’s okay to step away from the action for a few minutes (or even an hour or two). Let them take a break in a quiet place where they can relax and regroup. This might mean leaving the holiday party early or skipping the Christmas lighting ceremony altogether. And that’s okay! The important thing is that your child feels comfortable and enjoys the holiday season in their own way.
- Choose events wisely. Only some holiday events will be a good fit for your child. When deciding which activities to participate in, consider factors like crowds, noise levels, and length of time. It’s okay to say “no” to an event if you know it will be too much for your child.
- Prepare them (and yourself) in advance. Talk to your child about what to expect at an upcoming holiday event. If they know what’s coming, they’ll be better able to handle it when they’re actually in the situation. It can also be helpful to role-play different scenarios so they can practice how they’ll react. And remember to prepare yourself too! If available, visit the venue’s website and preview their accessibility accommodations. Having a plan will help you feel more confident and in control when things get overwhelming.
- Use visual schedules and cues. Visual schedules are a great way to help kids understand and follow along with what’s happening around them. If you’re attending a holiday concert, for example, create a simple schedule that shows when the music starts and stops, when there will be intermissions, etc. You can also use visual cues like hand signals or sensory maps to help manage sensory overload during events.
- Bring along sensory-friendly items. If your child has specific things that help them cope with sensory overload (like fidget toys, noise-canceling headphones, or weighted blankets), bring them along when you go out! These items will help your child feel more comfortable and relaxed during holiday events.
The holidays can be sensory-friendly and enjoyable for sensory-sensitive kids! By following these five tips, you can help your child enjoy the season without getting overloaded by sights, sounds, and smells. And don’t forget—taking breaks from the festive activities is okay if things get too overwhelming! The only important thing is that your child feels comfortable and has fun during this beautiful time of year.