How to make the holidays meaningful

Your child comes from a hard place. He or she is struggling with their behaviors. You know that the holidays are a difficult time of year for your child, so what do you do? Do you keep the Christmas tree in storage? Do you avoid going out at night so your child won’t see the Christmas lights? Do you celebrate away from your child so as to avoid triggering him or her? What’s a parent to do? 

Consider your child’s unique circumstance. 

Do you know why the holidays are hard for your child? Do you know what about the holidays sets your child off? If not, consider working with a behavioral health professional to do this. 

Keep it calm. 

Practice regulatory exercises regularly during this time of year. When you are in charge of holiday events, try to decrease sights and sounds. Don’t skip celebrating if this is a value for your family, but rather keep it simple. Try Facetiming a few family members at a time instead of the whole bunch. Play music softly in one room rather than blaring it through the house. Ask your child what kind of decorations he or she wants in the room the child sleeps in. (You might be surprised what they say!) 

Make memories! 

Enjoyable activities reduce stress and increase opportunities for attachment and bonding. Your goal is not to erase your child’s memories of the past, but to allow them to live and love in the present. Find ways to focus on your family’s values. Consider creating a new tradition with your child. Help your child understand the meaning of the holidays. Take time to give your child the gift of love in his or her primary love language (quality time, physical touch, affirmation, acts of service, or gifts). Help the child truly feel part of the group. 

The holiday season may be hard for your child, but it does not have to be unhappy. You can help sprinkle moments of joy in amidst the old memories that arise. You can also plant seeds that can grow into more positive future memories. The holidays are a meaningful season, and you can add meaning by how you spend time with your child in it. 

-Sarah Earles, MS, LAC, Child and Family Therapist