For me, the holidays can be a stressful time. In-laws are judgy, kids are unruly. And there are a million and one things to do while getting little to no sleep. And when neurodivergent kids are added to the mix, things get even more hectic.
My children are now 14 and 12, and I feel as if I’ve just mastered how to stay calm during this time of the year. Here’s how I maintain my sanity during the holiday season.
I let go of expectations.
One year, I bought my daughter an adorable Christmas frock with embroidered reindeer and a big, fluffy skirt. I bought my son a matching Christmas sweater. My husband and I also had well-planned outfits.
I scheduled a photo session, and I dreamed of the beautiful pictures we’d get. Instead, I got a daughter who wouldn’t wear the dress because it was too itchy. A son who refused to smile at the camera. And a husband who was over it.
So, I let go of what I thought the holidays should be. I started rolling with the punches to live more in the present with my kids. I started to accept the inevitable hiccups — like photo shoots gone wrong.
I relax restrictions.
My kids have ADHD — they need structure, routine, and firm boundaries. None of which exist at Grandma’s house. And that used to bother me.
“Mom, that’s too much sugar.” “Mom, they can’t eat that before dinner.” “Mom, they need to go outside.” After a few years of wasting my breath, I decided to loosen up.
A weeklong sugar fest and relaxing the rules wasn’t going to harm my kids. At Grandma’s house, my kids get to do activities that are no-go for 11 months of the year. And I get to feel less stressed knowing that their free-for-all won’t last for long.
I talk about tricky situations in advance.
Many neurodivergent kids — including my own — have trouble with social awareness. If they hate a present, they’re likely to say so. They’ll complain loudly about not liking the food. And they’ll let you know when they’re ready to go home.
I started talking to my kids about what to do in these scenarios. For instance, we talk about how to show gratitude for the gifts they receive, even if they don’t like them. We talk a lot about respecting older relatives and what it looks like to maintain boundaries while still being kind.
I go for walks.
Going for a walk gives me a chance to get some alone time. Plus it gives me a moment to reflect on why we’ve all come together in the first place.
When my kids came along, I wanted things to be just like they are in the holiday movies. But that’s not always realistic. And that’s OK. The last thing I want to be remembered as is the stressed-out mom who lost her temper. So, when too much togetherness gets the best of me, I head outside.