It is that time of year for the Holiday season and this can bring on new experiences, especially new social situations. These new social situations can bring added stress for children and teenagers with autism. Thanksgiving can be a time when we get together with extended family members and this could mean answering a lot of new and confusing questions, especially if the extended family members may not understand your families situations.
If you are going to a family members house for Thanksgiving or even having family members over to your house here are some strategies to help your child or teenager feel less stressed. Every person responds to situations differently, and it is important to try to understand what situations are stressful for your child or what activities may be harder for them to deal with. Below are some strategies that you can try to help your family situation.
- Talk with your child ahead of time about the family gathering so they know who might be coming and what they can expect for the family gathering. Are you going to just eat lunch/dinner and then sit around and watch TV, or will there be games/activities to do with the family? Some children like to understand what will be happening ahead of time and this can help ease anxiety for some children if they know what to expect.
- If your child becomes overwhelmed by a large group of people try to have a plan ahead of time to help your child. Some examples could be find a room in the house where your child can retreat to, to find quietness and do an activity they enjoy. You could bring a game, book, music, or electronic that they enjoy to help them calm down.
- If you can tell they are getting stressed and anxious, help them in those situations by talking with them or helping them walk away for a little while and then try to come back.
- Try giving your child specific jobs you know they can do to help them participate during the meal time. Such as setting the table, filling up water glasses, bringing food to the table, or telling everyone it is time to eat.
- What if my child is a super picky eater? If you know they won’t eat the food that is being served for dinner, make sure to bring food items you know your child will like to make sure they don’t go hungry. Don’t feel pressured to make your child eat in front of the family members, as this will be added stress on your child. You can talk to your child about polite ways to say no thank you to foods they do not like.
- What if a family member asks my child questions they don’t know how to answer? You can help your child in these situations, by answering parts of the question or giving your child more prompts to help them to understand how to better answer the question. You can rephrase the question to be yes or no, or you can ask the question in a way to help guide them to the answer.
- Remember, in all situations to remain calm and to show your child how to stay calm. If they start to see you get stressed and anxious those feelings can rub off onto your child and then they can start to feel more anxious and stressed.
Social Situation Cards for Problem Solving Different Situations for a Family Gathering
We have created a FREE download for you to help you and your child prepare for a family gathering, by providing you with various social situations you may encounter at a family gathering. This allows you to opening talk about new and different situations with your child or teenager to help them prepare and understand some of these new situations. Various social situations include: topics with grandparents, toddlers & babies, dogs/animals, greetings & goodbyes, when accidents occur, situations with food, and irony and idioms. Download the FREE resource below by providing us with your name and email address and you will receive an email with the download in your inbox.
The holiday season can be a time of newness and added stress. We hope these tips and the FREE resource can help you and your loved ones better prepare for the holiday season. Please let us know in the comments below if there are strategies that have worked well for your family! The more strategies we can give for families the better!