The end of the year can be a tricky time for our little people. Often they are faced with the excitement of Christmas and being on holidays; on top of apprehension about leaving their current teachers and moving in to older grades. For our anxious or rigid-thinking kids these transitions can be particularly troublesome as they leave the structure and predictability of school for the often more relaxed holidays. How can we help our little people through this phase so that they (and we!) can make the most of what should be an enjoyable and relaxing time?
The first thing we can do it so normalise and validate their feelings. Often young children have no idea how they are feeling, all they know is that it is uncomfortable. In children with diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder, identifying these emotions can be more difficult still. This is where modelling from us as parents can come in really handy. Whether it is through talking about how you felt as a child going into school holidays, or being more direct, it can come as a relief to children to know that their parents have big feelings and worries too.
Another thing we can do is provide structure to the unstructured. If you know that you have a week coming up where you don’t have plans, sit down with your child in advance and look at the days on a calendar. You might say something like “this week here is the first week of school holidays, so for these five days we don’t have anything we need to be doing”. For those kids that don’t deal well with ambiguity, often the issue is around control. Therefore, let’s give our kids the illusion of control. Pick two activities that you are happy with, and let your child choose. You might say “on this day we can go to the beach or we can go to the movies, what do you want to choose?”. That way they a) have a perceived sense of control; and b) know what to expect.
Finally, it is really important to be able to give our kids some down time.After working hard all year they are exhausted, not only physically but mentally.They are prone to being a bit more meltdowny and a bit more needy at this time of year.Sometimes they don’t realise it yet (or don’t want to admit it!!) but we can help them out by funnelling their attention towards those things we know relax them, so they are able to reset ready to charge into Christmas morning.
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