The holidays are rapidly approaching and sometimes our schedules fill up before we know it.  However, for parents of children with special needs; specifically those with sensory differences, the holidays can be an especially stressful time.  What can you do to make them better?

 

Keep as much routine or rhythm to your day as possible
Often times due to holiday closings, parties or family commitments, many of our days are not “typical” during November and December.  However, if you can, keep some routine in your days.  Try to keep meals, naps and sleep schedules the same, if at all possible.  Even if the times are a bit off, having the same routines (reading a story, brushing teeth, praying before bed) can make a big difference in how your children react to the holidays.

 

Consider preparing your child for new events
This looks different for every child.  But if your child needs to know what is going on, consider making a visual schedule or a social story to introduce them to new people, events, or new sensory experiences.  Talk about the event, show them pictures, or even pick out a video (YouTube is fabulous for this) to show them what the event will entail.

 

Put yourself in your child’s shoes
As you schedule your holiday plans, try to step back and really look at how much you have scheduled. Think through what your child typically has trouble with or what triggers problems or meltdowns?  Are there modifications to be made?  If you have children who love something, and others who don’t, could part of your family participate?

 

Don’t be afraid to say NO!
This is probably my best tip: Don’t be afraid to say no.  Though the holidays are special, we tend to over schedule and cram every social event into a month’s time.  It can get overwhelming, even for adults who are extroverts.  Sometimes we just need to say no.  This involves prioritizing what is really important to us and our families.  We don’t have to do everything in order to make memories.  In fact, some of things that make the best memories, are those we do at home and without planning.

 

Let go of your expectations
In this fabulous of age of Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, we tend to want all our memories to look “picture perfect”.  Guess what?  That’s not real life.  Sometimes the greatest triumph you will have is keeping your children alive or getting everyone a bath.  Remember, when you see pictures of perfection that is literally one second of that person’s day.  I can guarantee you that the other 86,399 seconds in their day do not look that way.

 

Embrace simple family traditions
Reading Christmas stories, playing with a nativity set, singing Christmas carols, decorating a tree, baking Christmas cookies, coloring and decorating the house all are fun ways to celebrate.  You don’t have to be out at light shows or at a party with 100 people to make memories that your children will cherish.  Just as you can do school “outside of the box”, you can do Christmas “outside of the box.”  You can do it any way that works for you and your family.  Don’t be afraid of embracing new traditions or trying different things.

 

Whatever you choose to do this year, we at SPED Homeschool pray it is an amazing time for you and your family.

 


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Are you homeschooling children that have been gifted with extraordinary energy like mine?  If so, you will relate to their behaviors:
  • Little patience for anything not involving movement
  • Constant climbing, running, wrestling, fidgeting and talking.
  • Energy levels that push them to engage in risky behavior
  • They have two speeds:  whirling dervish and sleeping

While these characteristics are slight exaggerations to make a point, if you are raising children with high energy, you will already be picturing how this plays out in your home. This type of child demands more than typical parenting strategies.   Here are some strategies I have learned that help embrace my children for who they are and have helped ensure we all survive their journey to adulthood.


Tips for Raising and Homeschooling Very Energetic Children:

 

Tip 1 – When possible, start every day with physical activity  
Our two young men need to run every morning before school.  This began when they were three years old.  We used to live near a park and it became the venue for our morning running circuit.  Working out my boys’ energy before school, prevented many tears, lots of frustration, and saved time in getting them to focus.

 

Tip 2 – Find safe places for them to take risks and let them go  
This recommendation runs against the grain of current parenting trends.  As our culture over-shelters and protects children in many areas, they become stunted in their initiative, tolerance for risk, and problem-solving skills.  

 

Our sons have been risk-takers from toddlerhood.  For us, state and national parks provided a refuge where our children could be wild and not bother other people.  When younger, our sons ran miles of trails and climbed many of rocks.  Now, at 12 and 14, they climb 14,000 ft. mountains for fun.  My sons have tackled challenges usually reserved for older children.   At times, their daring feats have caused onlookers concern, but they have always operated within their abilities.

 

Tip 3 – Encourage exploration and experimentation
Overly active children’s abundant energy, often comes with inquisitiveness and ingenuity. These are wonderful traits that will serve our children well as they mature.  Encouraging these traits means you will have a messy house at times, often leave workbook learning behind, and won’t be in control of this aspect of their learning.  What you gain is worth every bit of the cost.

 

Tip 4 – Set strong boundaries around personal property and people
High-energy children can literally crash through life.  To help avoid the social problems caused by this propensity, we must teach our children firm boundaries.  This takes direct teaching, lots of repetition, and opportunities to practice.  Teaching our children to respect others’ property (not touching or grabbing things without permission), not rough-housing unexpectedly with other children, and to confine wild play to the outdoors can help prevent behaviors that overwhelm or repel others.

 

Tip 5 – Limit or avoid times they are required to be still
In our family, we expect our children to sit quietly during worship, funerals, weddings and in time-out.  These times teach them self-control and self-regulation which are essential skills. However, their ability to do this successfully was much less-developed than their peers.  We have had to closely assess what they could tolerate and not push them past their limits. When they do not have to be still, I try to let them move, fidget and chatter as much as possible.  As they have grown, maturity has tempered much of this overactive behavior.

 

Dyana with her very energetic boys
Tip 6 – Participate in shared activities with them
My husband has helped immensely in this area.  He started taking our sons running from a very young age and cultivated a deep bond with them in doing so.  It has been more challenging for me as the boys have grown into young men.  I cannot keep up with them on trails anymore and time constraints also make it difficult.  So, a couple of years ago, I did something absurd and wonderful:  I signed the three of us up for martial arts classes.
  
I am over forty, struggle with weight and health issues, and was frankly terrified of getting out on the mat.  However, two years in, we have grown closer to one another, discovered another great outlet for their energy, and gained a supportive and loving community.  This experience has also helped us stay connected as they are becoming young men.

 

It is easier to schedule things for our active children and watch from the sidelines to get a much-needed break.  I am not discouraging that altogether.  However, I want to encourage you to find shared activities as well. Close bonds develop from shared hobbies and wonderful, lifelong memories are made.

 

 

 


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