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Blog: I’m dreaming of an anxiety free Christmas

Blog: I’m dreaming of an anxiety free Christmas

A festive tale of letting go of Christmas conventions.

Drew Llewellyn

Over the years “how can we avoid extra stress at Christmas?” has been a frequent topic amongst the various parenting groups and forums I’ve belonged to for parents of children with SEND.

Like all parents, Christmas is a mix of joy and anxiety -  but for those of us who are trying to get ahead of the next trigger for our child’s meltdown, well, let’s just say, the anxiety bar can be set a little higher. However, 17 years ago I discovered the secret to a happy and anxiety free Christmas. It was quite simple… Why not ask my son how he wanted to do it?

Now I should explain right away, this wasn’t a planned thing. In fact, that was the very essence of its success. My son was two, we were a pre-diagnosis family; George (not his real name, but the name my dad calls all of his grandchildren because he can never get their names right), was different to other children, although we were blissfully unaware why. He had his own ideas about why things did and should happen. We had got used to offering him choices (usually predetermined by us) so that he felt happier with how his day would be organised.

This particular year we had a call early Christmas day to say that George’s Grandparents (my in-laws who I was always trying to impress) would not be coming as they’d both gone down with a stomach bug. “Don’t start cooking for us” they said as if I hadn’t started preparing the 3 courses at least two days before. As if the children’s best clothes, the distraction activities for meltdowns and the “quiet space” for time out hadn’t been planned with military precision several days in advance. Still in our pyjamas and opening stocking presents, I shared the news with my husband and my sister-in-law – what would we do now? Their answer – ask George!

George decided that we could stay in our pyjamas all day (“I hate wearing those itchy clothes and I hate being smart” he said). George decided that we could play with whatever we liked and not need to clear up until bedtime (“if Granny isn’t coming we don’t need to be tidy” he said). George said we could eat the Christmas meal whenever we wanted, not just at lunchtime, especially as we had SO much food. (“can we just get it from the kitchen when we’re hungry mummy?”). We were easily persuaded by George’s plan! It was our first major family event without meltdowns.

Despite many changes and challenges, this has become our formula for an anxiety free Christmas ever since;

  1. Stay at home – if other people want to visit, they are extremely welcome, but they take us as they find us. No rushing around with duty visits.
  2. Wear what you want – whatever is comfortable.
  3. No set times for Christmas meals – they happen when they happen and you join in for as much as you like and eat which bits you like. Christmas hats are optional.

This was really our first step into person centred planning (before we knew it was a thing) and our son reminded us that trying to fit into other people’s conventions isn’t really what Christmas is about anyway. So why stress about it?

Released On 15th Dec 2017