Five Tips to Keep Families Healthy and Strong Even with Challenging Children

The holidays are notorious for putting a strain on even the healthiest of families. Schedules fall out of sync, stress builds with added expectations to be available to friends and extended family members, and tens of thousands of people seem to come out of hiding, making roads and shops unbearable. This does not include the stress from the unpleasant realization that in all likelihood, children are not going to get every toy they see on television. To help you through the holidays, I am listing five tips that are applicable to all families, not just those with special needs children. Ensure that all family members have adequate respite. Parents cannot be at their best without having a break once in a while.

The same is true for children. Find some way that every member of your family can get rejuvenated. Perhaps your children would like some 1-1 time with you, playing a game, doing a sensory activity, or just taking a walk.

Parents may need to call in a babysitter way in advance to get some time alone together, but use this time to build your relationship instead of holiday shopping or going to another party. Eat dinner together Eating dinner together is a healthy habit throughout the year. It is a time for your family to stay connected. Dinner does not need to be elaborate, the time together is most important.

Nurture your relationships. While this is the focus of the holidays, nurturing relationships does not need to be made through elaborate parties. It may also be the reality that you can not possibly reach out on a personal level to everyone. If that is the case, prioritize the people that you want to connect with this year and give a call, or write a personal card. Perhaps you invite some of them out to coffee instead of sending a card.

Live in the moment There is much beauty to be found at this time of the year. Yet, the most beautiful aspects are also the easiest to miss when we are frantically shopping, sending cards, or trying desperately trying to make our house the best decorated on the block. Instead, try to notice the day to day development of your child and their sense of wonder. Appreciate the little things in life If you take some time off during the holidays, try to appreciate all that your family has.

Appreciate too all that you have given your child. You may have given your child with special needs an opportunity to realize his or her full potential; an opportunity that was rare only thirty or forty years ago. Lastly, try to appreciate everything your child with a disability has given to your family.

Maybe it is patience, empathy, an appreciation for humanity, or something else.

Christoher R. Auer is the author of Parenting a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder: A Family Guide to Understanding and Supporting Your Sensory Sensitive Child (New Harbinger, 2006) more information at

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